Turkey seeks NATO 'full support' in Syria: Erdogan

Turkey’s president on Monday called on NATO members to show their alliance with Turkey at this critical time.

“NATO is in a critical period in which it should clearly show the alliance’s solidarity [with Turkey],” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters during a press conference alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Our allies should collaborate with Turkey without discrimination and with no political preconditions, he added.

Turkey has fought Syrian-based threats and the terrorist group Daesh/ISIS for nearly a decade now and is the only NATO member state to see soldiers martyred, said Erdogan.

No European country has the luxury of being unconcerned about the conflicts and human drama in Syria, he said.

Stoltenberg: Turkey ‘important’ ally

“No other ally has suffered more terror attacks than Turkey. No other ally hosts more refugees than Turkey,” said NATO chief Stoltenberg, praising Turkey’s efforts for the region’s security.

He also called Turkey an “important” ally which has “contributed to our shared security in many ways.” The military alliance has invested heavily in missile systems and military bases in Turkey in years past, and it keeps on contributing to air and naval missions in Turkey, he said.

“Allies are prepared to continue to support Turkey and explore what more to do,” he said, reaffirming the bloc’s commitment to partnership. Stoltenberg also expressed his concerns over the security situation in Syria and the resulting migrant crisis. “The Assad regime and Russia caused untold civilian suffering,” he said, adding that he hopes the cease-fire in Idlib, northwestern Syria reached last week by Turkey and Syria will grow into a standing peace.

The secretary-general called migration “a common challenge” and hailed the dialogue between Turkey and the EU to find a long-term solution for the crisis. Erdogan and Stoltenberg's meeting lasted around one hour at the Permanent Delegation of Turkey to the European Union, amid Erdogan’s one-day working visit to Brussels at the invitation of European Council President Charles Michel.

“Bilateral relations will be addressed thoroughly and steps to strengthen cooperation will be discussed during the meeting, which will also be attended by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen,” said a statement by the Turkish Presidency. The meeting will address “the latest developments in Syria, particularly Idlib, and the refugee issue as well as other regional and global matters,” it added.

Last month Turkey announced it would no longer stop asylum seekers from reaching Europe, complaining that the European Union had failed to keep its pledges under a 2016 deal on migrant, and warning of a refugee wave coming from Idlib. Turkey currently hosts over 3.7 million Syrians, making it the world's top refugee-hosting country.

On Sunday, just three days after Russia brokered a ceasefire between Turkey and Syria in the wayward Syrian province of Idlib, the Turkish president threatened to take unilateral action if the ceasefire fell through.
Ankara has asked NATO for extensive additional assistance to help shore up the border with Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced.

"[We've asked for] additional NATO assistance on Syria - for the defence of the border with Syria, and in connection with the migration challenge," Erdogan said, speaking to reporters on Monday alongside NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.
Stressing that Turkey was looking for "concrete support from all our allies to this struggle," Erdogan suggested that Turkey had been the only NATO power to fight Syria-based 'threats', including Daesh (ISIS)*, for over nine years and to have suffered troops killed.

"The situation in Syria threatens Europe. No country in Europe has the right to look with indifference at the humanitarian drama in Syria," Erdogan said.

For his part, Stoltenberg pointed to the "common challenge" of migration and refugee flows along the Greek-Turkish border, and said this problem required "common solutions."

"So I welcome the dialogue between Turkey and the European Union, and I trust that the way forward can be found. NATO will continue to play its part. We are currently deployed in the GNC to help tackle the refugee and migrant crisis. Allies are also prepared to continue to support Turkey, and we are exploring what more we may be able to do," Stoltenberg said.
'Open the Gates'
On Sunday, Erdogan called on Greece to "open the gates' to migrants, suggesting the country should "let them go to other European countries" and "be free of this burden."

On Monday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned Ankara not to use the migrant issue as a "political bargaining chip" with European countries ahead of talks with EU officials.

Tens of thousands of migrants gathered at the Turkish-Greek border late last month after Ankara announced that it had opened its border with the EU amid fighting in Idlib, Syria. Last week, President Erdogan warned that he would allow "millions of refugees" to move toward Turkey's borders with the EU, with the period of Turkey's "unilateral self-sacrifice in relation to the refugees" coming "to an end."

On Sunday, Erdogan warned Russia and Syria that "if the promises made" regarding the recently signed ceasefire in Idlib were not kept, Turkey would "reserve the right to clean up [the area] using our own methods."

Russia and Turkey announced a ceasefire between Turkish and Syrian forces in Idlib after talks between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday. The ceasefire, which stepped into force on March 6, includes an agreement for joint patrol of sections of the strategic M4 highway, and a 12-km-wide security corridor along the highway.

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