The Turkish foreign minister has reiterated the country’s threat to block a NATO defense plan for the Baltics and Poland unless the bloc formally recognizes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria as a terrorist organization.
Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu denied reports that Turkey had made concessions on its stance at the NATO.
He said instead it had just made a gesture to the Baltic states by allowing the defense plan to pass the NATO Council.
Last week, prior to NATO’s 70th-anniversary summit in London, Turkey declared that it would not support the NATO defense plan to increase deployments to the Baltics against Russia if it does not get political support from the alliance for its fight against the YPG.
“That [the Baltics] plan will not be published until our plan [the YPG’s terror recognition] is published too. It would not be fair for some countries to not approve our plan while at the same time backing a plan for others,” Cavusoglu said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced at the summit on Wednesday that Turkey had withdrawn its objection, allowing plans to move forward.
“Today we have agreed to the updated plan for the Baltic countries and Poland, so I welcome that, and it shows we are able to also move forward,” the NATO chief previously said.
Similarly, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda tweeted at the time that they had met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who agreed on the NATO defense plan for the Baltics.
The United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Boris Johnson convened a quadrilateral meeting a day before the summit, hosting Turkey’s Erdogan, French President Emanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
On Wednesday, Johnson said the four agreed on a recognition of the “very real threat” to Turkey’s security by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the continuation of discussions about “the great complexities of the situation in northern Syria” with Turkish officials. However, Johnson did not mention the YPG.
On the same day, however, France’s Macron delivered a contrary note to the previous ones, saying no consensus could be reached with Turkey on defining terrorism.
“I do not see any possible consensus,” Macron said.
Speaking to reporters during an official visit to Rome, Cavusoglu said Turkey’s plan passed the military committee and the NATO Council but has not yet been issued due to the objection raised by some countries.
“The NATO currently has two defense plans, one for Turkey and the other for Poland and three Baltic countries. We are not of course against them [the Baltic countries], but NATO’s mission is to protect all its allies.
“If the plans are issued, they will be issued simultaneously, in case of a problem, then both plans will be hampered,” the Turkish minister vowed.
Turkey sees the YPG as the Syrian branch of the PKK which has waged an almost 40-year insurgent campaign against the Turkish state.
On October 9, Ankara launched a military incursion dubbed Operation Peace Spring into Syria against the YPG which fought alongside a US-led international coalition in the ground war against the Islamic State (ISIS).
Turkey aims to clear the region off the Kurds and to set up a “safe zone” where it plans to resettle up to one million refugees currently living in the country.
ISIS or Daesh in Arabic declared a self-proclaimed “caliphate” in 2014 and later took control of large parts of Syria and Iraq by carrying out multiple atrocities that resulted in thousands of deaths.
The US-backed Kurds played a crucial role in the defeat of the group in March this year. Since then, the group’s fighters have resorted to guerrilla attacks in the region.
Turkey put an end to its operation on October 22 following deals with the US and Russia.
On November 7, Macron criticized the NATO saying it was suffering “brain death”, referring to a lack of strategic coordination among its allies over the Turkish offensive in Syria and to the unpredictability of the US administration.
Macron’s criticism initiated a war of words with Erdogan.