Turkey obstructs NATO military plans due to dispute over Syria (sources)

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Turkey refuses to back a NATO defense plan for the Baltic states and Poland until NATO gives greater political support to Ankara in its fight against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, four senior NATO sources said.

The sources added that Ankara has ordered its envoy to NATO not to adopt the plan and take a hard line during meetings and private talks, demanding NATO to classify the YPG fighters as terrorists in official statements.

The Turkish delegation to NATO has not yet been reached for comment. Turkey’s defense and foreign ministers did not respond to requests for comment.

The dispute, a week before the NATO summit in London on the 70th anniversary of its creation, is a sign of divisions between Ankara and Washington over Turkey’s attack on the YPG in northern Syria. Turkey considers the group a terrorist group and has links to Kurdish militants in Turkey.

NATO envoys are seeking formal approval from all member states of the alliance’s military plan to defend Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the event of a Russian attack.

Without Turkey’s consent, the alliance will be even harder for NATO to rapidly strengthen its defenses in these countries.

“They (the Turks) are taking the people of Eastern Europe hostage by not agreeing to this military plan until they get concessions,” a diplomatic source told Reuters.

Another source described Turkey’s behavior as “obstructive” as NATO tried to prove it was united after US President Donald Trump questioned the alliance and French President Emmanuel Macron declared the alliance “brain dead”.

Asked about the matter, NATO spokeswoman Oana Longescu said: “NATO has plans to defend all its partners. NATO’s commitment to the safety and security of all partners is unwavering.”

Turkey launched its offensive in northern Syria after the United States withdrew its 1,000 troops last month. Turkey’s NATO partners fear its incursion could undermine efforts to counter ISIS fighters.

Collective defense

NATO developed the defense plan for the Baltic states and Poland at the request of these countries and after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. This plan has no direct impact on Turkey’s strategy in Syria but raises security questions on all fronts of the alliance.

Under the alliance’s 1949 founding agreement, an attack on any NATO member is an attack on all members. NATO has military defense strategies in all regions of its member states.

Turkey made its demands before it began its offensive in northern Syria, but it turned into a crisis a week before a summit at which security documents are due to be adopted.

Two diplomatic sources said NATO envoys still hoped for a compromise because Ankara also wanted leaders to adopt a separate, sophisticated military plan on how to defend Turkey in the event of an attack.

Macron is scheduled to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the summit to discuss the Ankara process in Syria.

“Everyone criticizes them (the Turks) but if they give up, it will be at the expense of not interfering in their strategy towards Syria,” one diplomatic source said.

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