15 December 2012
NATO expects Turkey to play a vital role in the alliance’s mission in Afghanistan, reflecting the “spirit of solidarity” that NATO has shown in the protection of the Turkish people and territories by deploying Patriot systems against a potential attack from Syria.
“Our decision is a clear and concrete demonstration of the value of the alliance for our collective security and for your security. It shows that NATO stands with Turkey in the spirit of solidarity. As I look to next year, this spirit of solidarity will be equally important for our continued success,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a written message he issued at the 19th International Antalya Conference on Security and Cooperation on Friday.
He stressed that the priority over the next year would be Afghanistan. “We will continue to advise and assist the Afghan forces after 2014. And I hope that Turkey will play an important role in this vital mission, as it does in ISAF,” read the statement.
Turkey commands the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul and is a constant contributor of the NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. Although France has withdrawn its troops and the U.S. will implement a withdrawal plan in two years time along with NATO’s decision to end the combat mission in 2014, Turkey said it would not abandon its assistance to the Afghan people.
Although NATO has yet to draft its post-2014 Afghan mission, it is expected to provide further training to the Afghan security forces.
Rasmussen’s statement came a week after NATO approved Turkey’s request to deploy Patriot systems in its territory. The U.S. has announced that it will join the mission, along with Germany and the Netherlands. The approval is seen as an important “partnership message” that NATO conveyed to Turkey, which also emphasizes its expectations from Turkey to the alliance in future cases.
Patriots won’t resolve Syria problem
In the meantime, Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru stressed that the deployment of Patriot systems would not alone resolve the Syrian problem. “Turkey will continue to work with its allies in order to resolve the Syrian problem in peaceful ways,” Koru addressed the conference.
Koru said the Syrian regime had become “militia force that is using every possible means to stay in power.” Koru emphasized that the threat of the Syrian regime holding weapons of mass destruction was one of the reasons Turkey had asked NATO for the deployment of Patriots on its territory.
“We cannot stay indifferent in the face of violations of our borders and putting the lives of our citizens in danger. The Syrian regime has become a clear threat to the southeastern border of NATO, particularly in terms of weapons of mass destruction.”
Meanwhile, Ambassador Bülent Meriç said Turkey would not change its position in blocking a closer relationship between NATO and Israel unless the Israel side takes the necessary steps: issuing an official apology and paying compensation over its killing of nine Turkish citizens onboard the Gaza-bound vessel.
Turkey is not currently allowing Israel to join the NATO Mediterranean Partnership program, or open an office at NATO in Brussels.