NATO puts defence plan for Poland, Baltics into action, officials say

VILNIUS (Reuters) - NATO has put a defence plan for Poland and Baltic states into action after Turkey dropped its objections, officials from Lithuania, Poland and France have said.

Turkey’s foreign ministry declined to comment on Thursday.

The plan for Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, details of which are classified, was drawn up at their request after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. It was approved at a NATO summit in London in December.

But Turkey did not allow NATO chiefs to put the plan into action unless they recognised the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria as a terrorists.

“The Turks have dropped their objections,” an official of the French Armed Forces Ministry said on Wednesday.

A NATO diplomat said that the plans were now finally agreed.

Although it was unclear if Turkey extracted any concessions for agreeing, a second NATO diplomat said Ankara had acquiesced after pressure from the other 29 allies late last month.

The Poland and Baltics defence plan, known as Eagle Defender, has no direct bearing on Turkey’s strategy in Syria.

“Putting in place the political decision, which was reached in London, is a success for all NATO,” Lithuanian Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis told reporters. Paweł Soloch, head of Poland’s National Security Bureau, also confirmed the deal.

Turkey began its offensive in northern Syria after the United States pulled 1,000 troops out of the area in October. Ankara’s NATO allies have said the incursion undermines the battle against Islamic State militants.

NATO declined to comment directly, saying that it “has plans in place to protect all allies. Those plans are regularly revised and updated”.

Reporting by John Irish in Paris, Joanna Plucinska in Warsaw, Robin Emmott in Brussels and Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Giles Elgood