Turkish representatives of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) walked out of an event due to the presence of the Greek Cypriot Administration, which is not a member of the organization, Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Friday.
US Air Force General Tod D Wolters was sworn in as the top military officer of the 29-nation NATO military alliance on Friday and became Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), replacing US Army General Curtis M Scaparrotti at a ceremony at NATO’s military headquarters in Mons, Belgium. An American military officer always holds the NATO post of SACEUR.
Turkish diplomats and military officers left NATO’s change of command ceremony in order to protest against the participation of a Greek Cypriot representative.
According to a report by the Anadolu Agency (AA) on Friday, Turkey informed NATO it would not attend the event on Thursday if the invitation to the Greek Cyprus administration, which is not a NATO member, was not withdrawn.
The move came after Turkish authorities found out that the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) invited military officers and diplomats of the EU countries to the ceremony along with NATO allies.
The Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hami Aksoy condemned SHAPE’s decision to invite the Greek Cypriot Administration to the event, in a written statement on Friday, saying that it is “grave negligence that cannot be explained in good faith.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey annexed Northern Cyprus through a military operation in a move termed by Athens as an invasion, following a Greek Cypriot coup involving violence against the island’s Turks.
Established in 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is only recognized by Turkey and faces a longstanding embargo in commerce, transportation, and culture. The Greek Cypriot Administration, on the other hand, enjoys recognition by the international community as the Republic of Cyprus, established in 1960, which is a member of the EU.
Signed in 2017, the S-400 air defense system deal between Ankara and Moscow has caused friction between Turkey and NATO member countries that own the F-35 fighter jets, notably the United States.
The US and other NATO countries fear the radar on the Russian S-400 missile system will learn how to spot and track the F-35, making it less able to evade Russian weapons in the future, also threatening NATO’s interoperability.
The US threatened to kick its NATO ally out of the F-35 program, with some US senators also speaking of imposing sanctions on Turkey.
Earlier this week, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan claimed that a multinational project on the development of an F-35 technology would collapse without Turkish participation.