NATO chief voices support for Turkey's operation in Syria

At a press conference in Turkey's capital Ankara, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg voiced support for Turkey's fight against DAESH in Syria, stressing that the country is a highly valued member of the alliance.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (R) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) hold a press conference after their meeting at the official residence in Ankara, on September 9, 2016.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday welcomed Turkey's increased efforts against the DAESH terrorist organisation in Syria and said training local forces was the key to battling the group.

At a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Stoltenberg also said NATO had increased its military presence in Turkey, which he described as a "strong and highly valued" member of the Atlantic alliance.

"I welcome the increased efforts of Turkey but also other allies in fighting ISIL [DAESH] in Syria and also I believe the key is to train local forces," Stoltenberg said.

"It is a very complex and very difficult situation in Syria, but there is no alternative to just stay outside. We have to try to find a solution and also to fight ISIL in Syria."

Turkey launched its first major military operation into Syria just over two weeks ago in a bid to push DAESH back from its border and prevent the YPG, the Syrian affiliate of the PKK terrorist organisation, from seizing more territory.

Turkey has long argued for an internationally enforced no-fly zone to create a safe area for civilians in northern Syria, but Çavuşoğlu said that the UN Security Council would have to take a decision on any such move.

Çavuşoğlu also said Turkey had informed the German Government that a group of its lawmakers would be allowed to visit the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey at the beginning of October.

Turkey had previously blocked such a visit in response to a German parliamentary resolution declaring the deaths of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 a "genocide," demanding the German Government distance itself from the move.

In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he saw Ankara's decision as a move towards improving relations. 

"I am very glad that this issue now seems to be solved," Steinmeier said. "All efforts should be focused on fighting DAESH and the German presence at the Incrilik air base is part of the German contribution."

Reuters, TRTWorld and agencies