Politics, World

Estonian foreign minister hails Turkiye as 'good NATO ally'

On Ukraine tensions, Eva-Maria Liimets tells Anadolu Agency another war in Europe would be 'absolutely unacceptable'

Nazli Yuzbasioglu   | 21.01.2022
Estonian foreign minister hails Turkiye as 'good NATO ally'

ANKARA

Estonia's foreign minister has praised Turkiye as a "good NATO ally" that understands her country's "security concerns."

"Estonia and Turkiye are very good allies in NATO, and we see really Turkiye as a very capable and a good ally who understands very much our security concerns," Eva-Maria Liimets told Anadolu Agency on the final day of an official visit to the Turkish capital Ankara that began on Wednesday.

Liimets underlined that Turkiye and Estonia "think that there are opportunities for closer cooperation."

"We appreciate very much the Turkish commitment to NATO," said the foreign minister, who is in Turkiye upon the invitation of her counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Pointing to an earlier NATO air policing mission in the Baltic countries with the participation of Turkish pilots, Liimets said: "It's a very important security guarantee for Estonia and for other Baltic countries."

Thanking Ankara for its contributions, she added: "As we cooperate very closely in NATO, it is very good that our chiefs of defense forces also can meet and discuss different issues in this regard," referring to an expected visit to Turkiye from Martin Herem, the commander of Estonia's Defence Forces.


Ukraine-Russia tension

Expressing worry on ongoing tensions involving a Russian military buildup near the Ukrainian border, Liimets noted that the international community has come together to help to de-escalate the situation.

Though adding that "at the moment, we don't see any similar situation happening in our neighborhood in the northern part of Europe," the Estonian foreign minister stressed the need for cooperation to ease tensions, which she said posed "a security risk for the whole of Europe."

"It's absolutely unacceptable to see another war in Europe," she said.

Noting that Estonian and Turkish bilateral relations date back almost 100 years, Liimets said the two countries plan to celebrate the centenary of their diplomatic relations in 2024.

"We've had very good relations between our countries, which have developed and strengthened year by year."

On regional security, Liimets said that with Estonia being one of Europe's northern-most countries while Turkiye is located further south, "they have a bit different security concerns."

Despite this, the two countries at the moment share "similar security concerns in our regions."

"So, we discussed the different security concerns," she said. "And it's very good to emphasize that within NATO, we share security threats to our region, and then also to see how NATO has to strengthen its defense and deterrence posture to face modern security threats.”


- Migration

Regarding Turkiye's efforts on handling the migration issue, Liimets commended "the Turkish approach in accommodating so many millions of refugees on its soil," noting that the country was located on the crossroads of the migration crisis.

"We also have supported financially the humanitarian camps of refugees here in Turkiye, but also in other countries," she added. "We just ended our membership at the United Nations Security Council, and we saw how difficult it is to find political solutions to crises like we see in Syria."

"But at the same time, we see that millions of Syrian people have had to leave their country," said Liimets, urging efforts for a political solution to the conflict so that "all the refugees could have a safe return to their homeland."


- Talks in Turkiye focus on 'economy, security'

During a meeting with her Turkish counterpart Cavusoglu, Liimets said the two officials "focused mostly on economic issues, on security issues, on bilateral visits."

Adding that the two sides had planned "many visits this year in different areas," she underlined the role of tourism as "one of the areas of importance."

"I'm very glad that we also have direct flights between Istanbul and our Estonian capital Tallinn. So, there are many things to talk about and to further develop," she added.

Liimets said she expects more parliamentary interactions between Turkiye and Estonia. "We hope that we will have business delegations visiting each other's countries, and also to further digital cooperation, trade and also defense cooperation.”

On the two countries' cooperation, Liimets said there was "potential in many areas," noting business cooperation in particular.

"From our side, we will gladly share the digitalization experience and further cooperation between the companies who are dealing with digitalization," she said, adding that defense was another area of interest.

On cybersecurity, Liimets said Turkiye is also a member of the NATO-accredited Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence based in Tallinn. "This is also one of the areas where we have very close cooperation."

When asked about Turkiye's path to EU accession and Estonians' perspective on the issue, Liimets said her country has always been "a firm supporter" of the EU's enlargement. "We believe in it because we are a good example of successful enlargement and also, for our society, it has a very positive impact."

"We support enlargement and we also see Turkiye as a candidate country," she said. "We hope that Turkiye ... continues with the reforms and continues towards this path, as we are already very good allies in NATO."

Liimets arrived in Turkiye on Wednesday and had already met with her Turkish counterpart Cavusoglu on Thursday. On Friday, she is expected to visit a refugee camp in Adana, a province in Turkiye's south.

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