NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, commending Turkey's contributions to the alliance, emphasized that NATO allies stand in solidarity with Turkey as it faces serious security challenges.
Stoltenberg answered the questions of Anadolu Agency in Brussels ahead of his visit to Turkey on Monday and Tuesday. He will chair a meeting of the North Atlantic Council with the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) partners in the capital Ankara. Separately, he will have bilateral meetings with senior Turkish government officials.
Commenting on a wide range of issues including the agenda of his visit, purchase of S-400 air and missile defense system, NATO's contribution to Turkey, Stoltenberg thanked Turkey for hosting a special meeting of the North Atlantic Council in connection with the 25th anniversary of the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) .
Below is a transcript of our conversation with Stoltenberg:
- 'NATO allies stand in solidarity with Turkey'
Anadolu Agency: What is the purpose of your visit to Turkey? Who will you carry out official meetings with? What will be the main message you intend to convey to Turkish authorities?
Stoltenberg: I am very pleased to be visiting Turkey again, an important and highly valued NATO ally. I am grateful to Turkey for hosting a special meeting of the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s highest decision-making body, with our seven partner countries in our Mediterranean Dialogue. This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the dialogue, which is a unique network of NATO partners, promoting mutual understanding and cooperation.
As well as this important meeting in Ankara, I will have talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. I am in regular contact with them, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss in person the security situation in the region and Turkey’s strong contributions to NATO.
My main message, to all the people of Turkey, is that NATO allies stand in solidarity with Turkey as you face serious security challenges, and that Turkey continues to make essential contributions to our Alliance.
- 'Decisions about military procurement are for nations to make'
Anadolu Agency: The Turkish decision to purchase S-400 air and missile defense system has caused a lot of controversy, especially between two NATO allies, the U.S. and Turkey and Turkey has recently come under a lot of criticism. In turn, the Turkish government has been indicating that it has tried to meet its urgent needs in air and missile defense primarily through its NATO allies, like U.S. patriot systems. It argues that the offer from the U.S. came very late, it is high in cost and does not meet Turkey’s expectations. In light of this, do you think Turkey deserves the criticism it has received on the purchase of the S-400’s? What is your position?
Stoltenberg: This is a challenging issue, and it is important that there is an ongoing dialogue between Turkey and the United States.
I welcome and encourage the discussions about Turkey’s possible acquisition of a U.S. patriot missile system, and also welcome that Turkey, France and Italy continue their efforts on the definition and development of a long-range air and missile defense system. This is important for NATO because key allies are involved and because we encourage allies to purchase equipment which is able to operate together.
Decisions about military procurement are for nations to make. But, as I have said, interoperability of our armed forces is fundamental to NATO for the conduct of our operations and missions.
We must also remember that since 2013 NATO allies have been reinforcing Turkey’s air defenses. Spain and Italy have missile batteries deployed near Turkey’s southern border. Their Patriot and SAMP-T systems help defend Turkey against the threat of missiles from across the border with Syria. The mission is important and NATO allies are committed to it.
- 'NATO is committed to the defense of Turkey'
Anadolu Agency: The S-400 debate has also reflected upon the Turkish public opinion, leading many to question NATO’s contribution to Turkey’s defense and security and Turkish membership to NATO. What would be your message to the Turkish people regarding NATO’s contribution to Turkey’s security?
Stoltenberg: NATO allies stand with Turkey as you face serious security challenges. As well as protecting Turkey with air and missile defense systems, NATO has enhanced patrols by AWACS surveillance planes over Turkish territory. These can monitor and track potential air space violations, supporting Turkey’s efforts to defend its air space. All NATO allies are members of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS/Daesh, and working together, we have liberated all the territory once held by this terrorist group. NATO’s new training mission in Iraq is also helping to boost stability in the region. At last month’s meeting of foreign ministers in Washington, we also agreed a package of possible actions to enhance the security of the Black Sea region. All this shows NATO’s commitment to the defense of Turkey.
Turkey, bordering Iraq and Syria, is the ally most exposed to violence and turmoil from the Middle East. Your country has also suffered a series of horrific terrorist attacks. All NATO allies stand together in our determination to fight terrorism in all its forms.
- 'I greatly appreciate all that Turkey does for NATO'
Anadolu Agency: Relatedly, how does Turkey contribute to NATO? What is the value of Turkey for NATO?
Stoltenberg: I want to thank Turkey for the essential contributions you make to our shared security.
From Konya and supported by the Turkish Government, NATO AWACS surveillance planes fly in support of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS/Daesh. Turkey also plays an important role in NATO’s new training mission in Iraq. It is strengthening Iraq’s security forces to help ensure that ISIS can never return.
Turkey is also one of the biggest contributors to our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, helping ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists. Turkey is also helping build stability in the Western Balkans as part of NATO’s peacekeeping operation in Kosovo.
Turkey joined the Alliance in 1952, and it continues to be a highly valued member of our family of nations. As Secretary-General, I greatly appreciate all that Turkey does for our Alliance.
- 'NATO will remain a pillar of stability'
Anadolu Agency: NATO has celebrated its 70 years as the most successful and enduring military alliance in history. In your opinion, what has been the main strengths and weaknesses of NATO? What should NATO focus on in the near future in light of increasingly complex security threats?
Stoltenberg: For seventy years, NATO has kept our countries and our people safe by continuously adapting to new security challenges. During the Cold War, NATO successfully deterred the Soviet Union from aggression. In the 1990s, we faced new security challenges in Europe, and helped to end conflicts in the Western Balkans. After 9/11, NATO took a lead role in the international response in Afghanistan, where we continue to train local forces.
Today, we face the most unpredictable security situation in many years – including instability across the Middle East and North Africa, a more assertive Russia, cyber and hybrid threats, and a continued terrorist threat. In response, NATO has stepped up again, responding to many challenges at the same time.
We have strengthened our presence, including in the Black Sea region. We have increased the readiness of our forces, and our resilience against hybrid and cyber threats, while keeping channels of dialogue open with Russia. We have increased our role in the fight against terrorism, contributing to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS/Daesh, with surveillance flights and training in Iraq.
Our world is changing and NATO is changing with it. But some things remain unchanged: our commitment to one another endures, giving us the strength to overcome our differences and rise to any challenge. NATO will remain a pillar of stability in an uncertain world for future generations.
By Serife Cetin