NATO says Turkey blocking a plan to get concessions in its Syria policy

Turkey will not support a defense plan of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for the Baltic States and Poland unless it gets political support from the bloc for its fight against Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, four senior sources from the alliance told Reuters on Tuesday.

“They [the Turks] are taking eastern Europeans hostage, blocking approval of this military planning until they get concessions,” one of the diplomatic sources said.

A day later, a Turkish diplomatic source confirmed Ankara’s latest defense policy on the NATO platform.

According to the reports, Turkey demands that  NATO formally recognize the YPG as a terrorist organization.

The US-backed Kurdish militia which bore the brunt of the fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS) was attacked on October 9 by Turkey, which proceeded to invade north-eastern Syria.

The NATO, as well as the United States (US), fear the Turkish incursion into the region will undermine the battle against ISIS.

However, Turkey plans to clear the area off the YPG, seeing it as the Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since the early 1980s.

Turkey’s NATO envoy was reportedly told by Ankara not to sign off on the bloc’s military plan to defend Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in case of an attack by Russia.

According to the Turkish source, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

was trying to find common ground between the member states on the defense plan for Turkey as Ankara is “open to offers.”

“Those who want us to publish the plan for the Baltics must then show the same awareness for ours as well,” the unnamed source vowed.

“We have plans in place to defend and protect all allies and our commitment to collective defense is ironclad. Not only do we have plans, but we have more ready forces,  modernized command structures and more capabilities that we have had for decades,” Stoltenberg said, declining to provide details on the internal discussions.

Another NATO official described Turkey’s blocking the approval “disruptive” as the bloc was trying to show its united stance amid recent criticism raised by two leaders for the bloc.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced his skepticism of the NATO and French President Emmanuel Macron described the alliance as “brain dead” earlier this month.

Turkey’s move came prior to NATO’s 70th-anniversary summit in London next week.

The new NATO defense plan for the eastern European countries has turned into a diplomatic dispute. The NATO envoys seek approval by all 29 member states. Without Turkey’s consent, it could be difficult for NATO to realize its plan quickly.

Ants Laaneots, a lawmaker from the Reform Party and former Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) commander, called Turkey’s behavior a type of blackmail.

A reaction to the Turkish act came from one of the Baltic countries, Estonia.

“This is [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s blackmail. I believe that the NATO management must decide something here,” the MP told ERR.

Laaneots said Turkey’s recent actions evidenced that NATO’s decision making based on unanimity among member states is wrong.

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