Alwaght- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that his country will oppose NATO’s defense plan for the Baltic states and Poland if the Western military alliance fails to recognize Syrian Kurdish militants as a terrorist group.
Erdogan made the remarks on Tuesday before his departure from Ankara for NATO’s 70th anniversary summit in London.
The president said that he had spoken on the phone with his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, and agreed to meet him as well as leaders of the Baltic states in London for talks on the plan.
“With pleasure, we can come together and discuss these issues there as well,” he said. “But if our friends at NATO do not recognize as terrorist organizations those we consider terrorist organizations ... we will stand against any step that will be taken there.”
NATO envoys need formal approval by all 29 members for the Baltic initiative, which is meant to defend three Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – and Poland against alleged threats from Russia.
A Turkish security source said on Monday that his country is not “blackmailing” NATO with its rejection of the plan, stressing that Ankara has full veto rights for any proposal within the alliance.
“NATO is an institution where Turkey has full veto rights, politically and militarily, and there are procedures here,” he said. “There is no such thing as Turkey blackmailing — a statement like that is unacceptable.”
Turkey, NATO’s second largest standing military force, wants the alliance to formally classify the Kurdish-led YPG, the main component of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as a terrorist group.
Ankara is angry over NATO member states’ support for the YPG, which Turkey says is tied to homegrown autonomy-seeking Kurdish militants.
On the sidelines of the NATO summit, Erdogan will attend a four-way meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday.
During the meeting, the Turkish leader is expected to demand that Europe endorse his plan for a “safe zone” in northern Syria.
He will also seek an EU donation for the reconstruction of northern Syria and complain that Turkey has been left alone in its fight against terror, particularly against the YPG.
On Monday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged Turkey to stop holding up support for the NATO defense plan for the Baltics and Poland.
In an interview with Reuters, he warned Ankara that “not everybody sees the threats that they see” and that he would not support labeling the YPG as terrorists.
“The message to Turkey ... is we need to move forward on these response plans and it can’t be held up by their own particular concerns,” Esper said.