NATO PA President Expresses Support for Turkey on counter-terrorism and Refugees

NATO Parliamentary Assembly (PA) President, U.S. Congressman Michael R. Turner expressed his support for Turkey in its battle with terrorism and its struggle to host some three million Syrian refugees.

“We are holding this session here in Istanbul as another way to demonstrate our solidarity with Turkey and the Turkish people, and to recognize the trauma that the coup represented,” he stressed, noting that the alliance is “in support of Turkish democracy.”

“Solidarity and democracy go hand in hand. They are NATO’s shared values,” Turner said.

Parliamentarians from NATO nations on Nov. 19 reviewed possible responses to terrorism threats, as well as Moscow’s challenge to the Alliance, at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s annual session in Istanbul.

“This is our Assembly’s first opportunity to review the outcomes of NATO’s Summit in Warsaw in July,” Michael R. Turner said, reported Daily News.

Some members raise concerns over security measures in Turkey and Turkish officials respond

However, several members raised concerns over security measures taken by the Turkish government in the aftermath of the coup attempt.

“We understand a strong reaction is necessary for this traumatic experience,” Dutch legislator Salima Belhaj said. “However, we are worried about the developments the rule of law is taking in Turkey.”

However, Bozdağ said the authorities were “working within the law” in responding to the coup attempt.

Turkish ministers complain

Turkish ministers also complained that allies had been slow to condemn the July 15 coup attempt and appealed for more support from the West to help Turkey fight terrorism, bolster its defenses and cope with the around 3 million refugees, mostly from Syria and Iraq.

“We do not see international solidarity. This is a huge disappointment,” Bozdağ said.

NATO’s role in global security

Head of the Turkish delegation, Osman Aşkın Bak, emphasized “the important developments regarding NATO’s role in global security,” in an environment characterized by “more diverse and more dangerous challenges,” pointing out that Turkey was in the frontline, particularly in the fight against terrorism.

Bak also stressed that “this meeting has special meaning for us,” by giving top officials from Turkey the chance to share their views on NATO and explain to deputies what happened four months on from the failed coup attempt of July 15. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also said Ankara was playing a key security role on NATO’s southern and eastern flanks and wanted more reassurance measures from the Alliance. “NATO should also keep its promises … so that all NATO members can feel themselves safe and secure on the eastern and southern flanks,” Çavuşoğlu told the NATO PA’s Political Committee. “That’s why we call on NATO to take action,” he added.

Fight Against Terror Without Distinction

Turkey’s deputy parliament speaker Ahmet Aydın, speaking at a reception for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Istanbul, said there is no question of Turkey’s determination in countering the terrorist groups Daesh, the PKK/PYD, FETÖ, and the DHKP-C without distinction, according to Yeni Şafak.

“We hope our allies will fight any terror group in a principled manner and without any distinction, as Turkey does,” Aydin added.

NATO allies should heed Turkey on Syria:  Ömer Çelik

“Iran and Russia intervened in Syria, made a lot of mistakes, and caused the deaths of many people. As NATO allies, do we have a consensus on [reaching] a solution in Syria?” said Turkey’s EU affairs minister Ömer Çelik, according to Yeni Şafak.

“Turkey proposed a no-fly zone, [but] our allies did not support that. We asked for safe zones, our allies did not support that. We said let’s fight terrorist groups, our allies did not support that. Our NATO allies are not showing solidarity with Turkey,” said Çelik.

The U.S. military has been skeptical of Turkey’s proposal for a safe zone in Syria, citing the difficulties of implementing and protecting it.

“These groups are taking over Arab and other minorities’ lands. After the defeat of Daesh, unrest would persist in these areas, and we should not damage the local fabric of the region,” he added. Noting Turkey’s efforts amid the crisis in its region, Çelik said, “Turkey knows better than anyone what it’s like to be a neighbor of a terrorist group,” pointing to the terrorist attacks in Turkish cities such as Istanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakır, as Turkey is also shouldering the burden of more than 3 million refugees from Syria and Iraq.

“There will be different outcomes if this situation continues,” he said.

According to Çelik, many people join Daesh from European countries because they are not allowed to express themselves due to anti-Muslim rhetoric. “People in those countries join extremist groups because they are restricted from expressing themselves and freely expressing their identities,” he said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, several senior government ministers and a plethora of security, defense and migration experts will join the legislators over four days for what is the NATO PA’s 62nd annual session.