NATO chief set for first visit to Turkey after failed coup

During his two-day visit to Ankara, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Defence Minister Fikri Isik.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at the Alliance's headquarters during a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

Updated Sep 8, 2016

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will travel to Turkey this week to meet with top Turkish government officials in Ankara.

Stoltenberg is another top western official to visit Turkey since a failed military coup in July.

In the past month, US Vice President Joe Biden and European Parliament head Martin Schulz both visited Ankara for talks while European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini is due to visit on Thursday and Friday

A NATO statement said that Stoltenberg will meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Defence Minister Fikri Isik and other high-level officials.

Over 270 people died in the July 15 attempted putsch, and developments since have strained relations between Turkey and many of its allies.

Some 20,000 people have been arrested since the July 15 coup attempt and tens of thousands of civil servants have been suspended over having suspected links to Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric Ankara blames for the attempted putsch.

Turkish authorities have accused the West of being more concerned about the rights of the plotters and of people who supported them than the attempt to overthrow the lawfully elected government of a NATO member by force.

NATO and Stoltenberg have expressed support for the Turkish government in the coup's aftermath, insisting that the US-led alliance means what it says in supporting democracy.

At the same time, NATO has been cautious, calling for Ankara to ensure human rights norms, that all alliance members are supposed to adhere to, are not compromised.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim (R) and US Vice President Joe Biden (L) hold a joint press conference following their meeting on August 24, 2016 at the Cankaya Palace in Ankara.

Biden visited Turkey late last month, the most senior western official to do so since the failed coup bid, as Washington tried to mend ties badly strained by Ankara's demand that it hand Gulen over for trial.

Turkey is a key NATO ally, second only in military numbers to the United States. 

The Turkish Armed Forces launched Operation Euphrates Shield in Syria last month, to protect its borders, defeat DAESH and secure the Turkish town of Karkamis, adjoining Syria.

This picture taken on September 5, 2016, in the southern Turkish region of Gaziantep, shows a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) standing ready for deployment.

Turkey and the US have been at odds over the issue of YPG and PYD militants near the Turkish-Syria border.

Ankara views PYD as a terrorist organisation but on the other end the US uses it as an ally in the fight against DAESH. 

PYD's militant wing, YPG, is an affiliate of PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, US, EU and NATO.

The PKK has stepped up terrorist attacks against Turkey in recent months.

In early August, NATO had to make clear that Turkey's membership in the alliance was "not in question" when Erdogan made a highly-symbolic visit to Russia to mend fences with Moscow after Turkish jets shot down a Russian fighter jet which violated Turkish airspace in November along the Syrian border.