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NATO 'ready to sit down and address' Turkish security concerns

'All NATO allies are of course ready to sit down and address those concerns,' says Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

Michael Hernandez   | 01.06.2022
NATO 'ready to sit down and address' Turkish security concerns

WASHINGTON

All 30 NATO members are ready to come to the table to address Türkiye's security concerns related to the PKK terror group, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

The comments come as Ankara continues to protest Finnish and Swedish membership bids to join the transatlantic alliance, maintaining both countries have supported and provided a safe haven to terrorists, including members of the YPG/PKK and others.

"All NATO allies are of course ready to sit down and address those concerns, including the threats posed to Turkey by PKK, and this is terrorist threats, which of course, is something we are taking very seriously," Stoltenberg told reporters at the State Department where he was being hosted by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

"We know that no other NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey, and Turkey is an important ally not least because of its strategic geographic location bordering Iraq and Syria," he added.

Stoltenberg said he will convene senior officials from Türkiye, Sweden and Finland in Brussels "in the coming days," adding that he is confident "we will find a united way forward."

Earlier Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sweden and Finland have not yet provided Ankara with concrete responses that meet its expectations.

Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO on May 18, a decision spurred by Russia's war on Ukraine, which began Feb. 24.

But Türkiye, a longstanding member of the alliance, has voiced objections to their membership bids, criticizing the countries for tolerating and even supporting terror groups such as the YPG/PKK and FETO, the group responsible for a failed 2016 coup in Türkiye.

All membership applications must be met by unanimity in the 30-member alliance to be successful.

US warns against Syria operation

Blinken, the top US diplomat, further warned against a Turkish operation in northern Syria, saying "any escalation there in northern Syria is something that we would oppose," maintaining Washington’s support for "the maintenance of the current ceasefire lines."

"The concern that we have is that any new offensive would undermine regional stability such as it is, provide malign actors with opportunities to exploit instability for their own purpose," he said. "We continue effectively to take the fight through partners to Daesh, to ISIS, within Syria, and we don't want to see anything that jeopardizes the efforts that are made to continue to keep ISIS in the box that we put it in.”

Erdogan said Türkiye is set to clear two areas of northern Syria near the Turkish border of terrorist elements in a bid to eliminate the terror threat from the region. The Turkish leader said the operation would target the areas of Tel Rifat and Manbij to protect the nation and residents in northern Syria from the YPG/PKK terror threat.

The PKK is a designated terror group in the US and Turkey. But the US has partnered principally with the YPG, the PKK's Syrian affiliate, in northern Syria to counter Daesh/ISIS in the region in a move that continues to roil bilateral ties.

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