Spotlight: Obstructing NATO plan could harm Turkey's ties with bloc: analysts

Source: Xinhua| 2019-11-30 23:22:06|Editor: ZX
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ISTANBUL, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Turkey's blocking of a NATO defense plan for the Baltics in retaliation against the alliance's failure to recognize the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria as a threat to Ankara is a wrong move that risks alienation from the bloc, analysts said.

The dispute came at a time when Ankara's reliability as a defense partner is being questioned by the West amid its rapprochement with Moscow in recent years。

"Linking NATO's proposed stance on Baltic states and Poland to the YPG problem will only serve to estrange Turkey's relations with NATO," Faruk Logoglu, a former senior diplomat, told Xinhua.

The leaders of NATO member states will meet in London on Dec. 3-4 for the bloc's 70th anniversary summit.

Media reports said earlier this week that Ankara had instructed its NATO envoy not to sign on the proposed defense plan unless the alliance provides political support to Turkey in its fight against the Kurdish militia known as the People's Protection Units (YPG).

The NATO plan in question is aimed at defending Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Poland against a possible Russian attack。

"This quid pro quo approach to matters not directly related and to one on which there is no consensus is not likely to produce any beneficial outcome for Turkey," stated Logoglu。

Ankara would not change its position unless the YPG is mentioned as a threat to Turkey in NATO documents, Turkish media quoted a diplomatic source as saying on Thursday。

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tacitly confirmed the validity of the reports, as he said the same day "we are not against the NATO reaction plan, but what is being sought for the Baltics should also be sought for us。"

Turkey is extremely disturbed about the military and political support given to the YPG by some NATO members like the United States and France, as Ankara sees the Kurdish militia as a terror group.

Ankara's move must have increased doubts about its reliability as a partner in NATO, said Cahit Armagan Dilek, director of the Ankara-based 21st Century Turkey Institute。

"Because the plan held up by Turkey is against Russian threat and that may create the impression that Turkey is siding with Russia," he told Xinhua.

Turkey's increasing cooperation with Russia in recent years, including the purchase of the sophisticated Russian S-400 air defense system despite strong U.S. opposition, has raised questions among Western countries about Ankara's dependability.

Ankara has repeatedly said it would activate the S-400 missiles despite threat of sanctions by Washington, while underlining that the missiles would not be integrated into the NATO system.

Saying Ankara's position would further strain relations with the United States and France, Logoglu suggested "Ankara should instead emphasize the security threat posed by the YPG and ask NATO to address this aspect of the issue."

Turkey has long criticized some of its NATO allies, first and foremost the United States, for failing to heed its security concerns by supporting the YPG.

The U.S. and European plans in Syria clash with Turkish interests, remarked Dilek, a former staff officer in the Turkish military.

Ankara accuses some of its Western allies, Washington and Paris in particular, of seeking to establish a state-like Kurdish entity in northeastern Syria。

Noting Turkey is also a NATO member, Cavusoglu warned that no unity should be expected within the alliance if some countries oppose a member state's efforts for security。

Despite much opposition from the United States and the European Union, Turkey launched a cross-border military operation last month to drive the YPG away from its border.

A Kurdish state-like entity in Syria, particularly one dominated by the YPG, is seen as a major national security threat by Turkey which has a Kurdish population of nearly 20 million at home.

Both analysts think Turkey's attempt to get its NATO partners to recognize the YPG as a terror group is futile as the alliance cannot take such a step without the approval of all its members, something which is practically impossible.

A bitter war of words between the Turkish and French leaders took place ahead of the NATO summit, revealing tension within the alliance。

Deeply frustrated by Washington's unexpected withdrawal of troops in Syria near the Turkish border in a sign of tacit approval of Ankara's cross-border offensive in October, French President Emmanuel Macron blamed the West and NATO member countries for the Turkish operation。

More recently, Macron said NATO was experiencing "brain death."

At a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday, the French president said Ankara cannot expect solidarity from NATO while launching an offensive against the YPG。

Macron also revealed his misgivings about Turkey, saying NATO should first search for answers to some major issues such as the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty, the Turkey issue and ties with Moscow.

The response was swift and sharp from Ankara.

Turkey's operation against the YPG has upset French plans, and a disappointed Macron did not know what he was talking about, said Cavusoglu。

Calls for Turkey's expulsion from NATO, in particular from France, have increased following the Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria.

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in mid-week that Turkey should be kept within the alliance based on geostrategic considerations despite Ankara being a tough ally to deal with。

Remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday revealed that Ankara is highly disturbed about its place in NATO being questioned.

Macron is in no way in a position to decide whether Turkey should be kicked out of NATO or not, Erdogan said。

"Have your own brain death checked first," the Turkish president added, underlining that Europe's security is closely linked with Turkey's security。

The timing of Turkey's demand regarding the YPG is telling, Dilek said, noting Germany is expected to bring up the deployment of NATO troops in northeastern Syria for discussion at the London summit。

He argued that Ankara's move could open the way for deploying NATO troops in Syria against attacks by the YPG.

Alexander Mikheev, head of Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, said earlier this week that Moscow hoped to conclude in 2020 a new deal on S-400 with Ankara。

"We have big plans ahead," he said, noting Moscow-Ankara cooperation in the defense area is not limited to S-400s。

Mikheev's remarks are intended to "add fuel to the fire" between Turkey and its NATO allies, Dilek said, adding he does not think NATO would think of kicking Ankara out of the bloc.

NATO chief Stoltenberg said recently that Turkey is very important for the alliance given its geostrategic position.

Erdogan, Macron, Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are scheduled to meet over Syria on the sidelines of the London summit.

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