Turkey still blocking defence plan for Poland and Baltics

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Turkey continues to block a NATO defence plan for Poland and Baltic states despite a deal last year between Turkey’s president and allied leaders, three allied diplomats and a French defence official said on Wednesday.

Diplomats said while Ankara has approved the plan, known as Eagle Defender, it has not allowed NATO military chiefs to put it into action.

The dispute, first reported by Reuters in November, is a sign that divisions remain between Ankara, Paris and Washington over Turkey’s offensive last year in northern Syria and that frictions over broader NATO strategy have not been resolved.

The Turkish government did not immediately respond for request for comment. NATO defence ministers are due to meet later on Wednesday and Thursday via secure video call.

“Turkey is refusing to accept these plans unless we recognise the PYD/PKK as a terrorist entity,” a French defence official said, referring to Syrian and Turkish Kurdish groups that Ankara regards as dangerous rebels.

“We say no. We need to show solidarity for eastern allies and it’s not acceptable to block these plans,” the official said.

At a NATO summit in December, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and other allied leaders to drop such demands.

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.

The plan for the Baltic states and Poland, drawn up at their request after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, has no direct bearing on Turkey’s strategy in Syria, but it raises issues about security on all of NATO’s frontiers.

Under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s 1949 founding treaty, an attack on one ally is an attack on all, and the alliance has military strategies for collective defence across its territory.

Reuters

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