Stoltenberg stressed that no other NATO ally is hosting so many Syrian refugees and no other ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey.
NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that Turkey is among the countries "key to keeping Europe safe."
“From Norway in the north, to Turkey in the south, and the US, Canada, and the UK in the west. All are key to keeping Europe safe,” Stoltenberg said at the Koerber Foundation when he gave a speech at the Korber Global Leaders Dialogue event in Berlin.
Highlighting Turkey's important role in protecting Europe, Stoltenberg's remarks followed earlier statements by the head of the western military alliance in which he reiterated Ankara's position as "an important NATO ally."
“One must acknowledge that Turkey is an important ally,” Stoltenberg had said in a recent interview with the German weekly Bild am Sonntag.
He had pointed out that Ankara had legitimate security interests.
“In the fight against ISIL [Daesh], Turkey has made crucial contributions for physically destroying the so-called caliphate. Furthermore: No other ally is hosting so many Syrian refugees, 3.6 million in total. And no other NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey,” Stoltenberg said.
On the other side, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas underlined Turkey's importance in the region during his meeting with his American counterpart Mike Pompeo in the eastern German city of Leipzig.
"Despite our differences with Ankara these days, it is a partner of NATO, it is a crucial, a significant partner of NATO. We should keep the dialogue open," he stressed, amid criticism by the US, Germany and several other NATO allies on Turkey's Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on October 9 to eliminate all terrorist groups from northeastern Syria and create a safe zone along the border, thereby paving the way for the voluntary return of Syrian refugees.
Ankara agreed with Washington on October 17 to pause its operation to allow YPG/PKK terrorists to withdraw from the planned safe zone.
On October 22, Turkey also reached an agreement with Russia on a 10-point plan to force the YPG/PKK group to withdraw from the planned terror-free zone.