November 27, 2019 / 3:57 PM / 13 days ago

Turkey not backing down in NATO defense plans dispute: source

ANKARA (Reuters) - Ankara will resist efforts by its NATO allies to persuade it to back an alliance defense plan for the Baltics and Poland until its demands are met over a plan for Turkey’s defense, a Turkish diplomatic source said on Wednesday.

A Turkish flag flies next to NATO logo at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, November 26, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Turkey was refusing to back the plan for the Baltics and Poland unless it got more political support for its fight against Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria.

Turkey wants NATO to formally recognize the YPG militia, the main component of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as terrorists and is infuriated that its allies have given the militia support.

The Turkish source said NATO had agreed this year to back the alliance plan for defense of Turkey, including in the event of an attack from the south, where it borders Syria.

The plan included recognizing the YPG as a terrorist threat to Turkey, but Washington later withdrew its support and other countries then opposed it too, the source added

“So, we are saying that if ours (defense plan) isn’t published, we won’t allow the other (plan for the Baltics and Poland to be published) either,” the source said. “Those who want us to publish the plan for the Baltics must then show the same awareness for ours as well.”

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter on Wednesday that the European Union and NATO must cooperate with Turkey regarding the country’s national security concerns.

“Turkey is a strong member of NATO with the second largest army in it and wants to join the EU as a full member,” he said.

“But the allies must take threats against Turkey’s national security seriously and work in partnership to overcome them.”

A week before a NATO summit in London, alliance envoys are seeking formal approval by all 29 members for the military plan to defend Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the event of a Russian attack.

Asked about the issue, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg declined to give details of the internal discussions but said: “We have plans in place to defend and protect all allies and our commitment to collective defense is ironclad.”

“Not only do we have plans, but we have more ready forces, a modernized command structures and more capabilities that we have had for decades,” Stoltenberg said.

The start of a Turkish offensive in northeast Syria last month was condemned by its NATO allies, who fear it could hinder the battle against Islamic State. Turkey has rejected the concerns, saying it will continue to battle all terrorists in the region, which it says includes the U.S.-backed YPG.

The Turkish source said Stoltenberg was trying to find common ground between the member states on the defense plan for Turkey and that Ankara as “open to offers.”

Additional reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Alistair Bell

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