Saturday 24 February 2018

Nato offers backing in Turkey emergency meeting

Secretary general Jens Stoltenberg talks during a meeting at Nato headquarters in Brussels (AP)
Secretary general Jens Stoltenberg talks during a meeting at Nato headquarters in Brussels (AP)
Jens Stoltenberg talks during a meeting at Nato headquarters in Brussels (AP)

Nato has proclaimed its "strong solidarity" with Turkey following a rare emergency meeting to assess the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group

Members also urged Turkey not to use excessive force in its fight against extremists, a Nato official said.

"The security of the alliance is indivisible," ambassadors from all 28 nations declared in a joint statement after the meeting.

They condemned recent terror attacks in Turkey and called terrorism "a global threat that knows no border, nationality, or religion - a challenge that the international community must fight and tackle together".

While public statements stressed Nato unity, the official said members also used the closed-door meeting to call on Turkey not to use undue force and to continue peace efforts with representatives of the Kurdish minority.

As the ambassadors were gathering at Nato headquarters, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara it was impossible to advance a peace process with the Kurds as long as attacks on Turkey continue.

The special session of the alliance's main political decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, was held at Turkey's request under a clause of Nato's founding treaty that empowers member countries to seek consultations if they believe their security, territorial integrity or political independence is at risk.

It was just the fifth such meeting in Nato's 66-year history.

"All allies stand in solidarity with Turkey," alliance secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg told reporters after the session, which lasted a little over an hour.

Mr Stoltenberg said the Turks did not use the meeting to request military assistance from other Nato members.

Amanda Paul, a senior policy analyst and specialist on Turkey at the European Policy Centre, said: "I think the main purpose is to give them some reassurance in terms of their bombing campaign in Syria and northern Iraq so that they won't be accused of violating international law."

Recently, an IS group suicide bombing near Turkey's border with Syria left 32 people dead and another attack on Turkish forces killed a soldier.

Turkey said another soldier died today after he was shot in the head by a Kurdish militant near the border with Iraq.

After months of reluctance, Turkish warplanes last week started striking militant targets in Syria and Turkey's leaders agreed to allow the US to launch its own strikes from Turkey's Incirlik airbase.

But in a series of cross-border strikes, Turkey has not only targeted IS but also Kurdish fighters affiliated with forces battling the group in Syria and Iraq.

On Monday, Syria's main Kurdish militia and an activist group said Turkish troops shelled a Syrian village near the border, targeting Kurdish fighters.

In the battle against IS, the Syrian Kurds have been among the most effective ground forces and have been backed by US-led airstrikes, but Turkey fears a revival of the Kurdish insurgency in pursuit of an independent state.

The Kurds are an ethnic group with their own language living in a region spanning present-day Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has fought Turkey for autonomy for Kurds in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984.

Press Association

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