NATO chief says Turkish support for alliance has utmost importance in fight against DAESH terrorist organisation in Middle East
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stated that the Atlantic alliance needs Turkey's assistance in order to conduct effective operations against the DAESH terrorist organisation.
"Turkey participates in the coalition fighting ISIL [DAESH]. Turkey provides military assets, but in addition Turkey provides infrastructure – bases, the Incirlik base, and other facilities for the efforts of the coalition fighting ISIL," Stoltenberg said on Wednesday during a speech at the Atlantic Council, a US think tank.
"Without Turkey it would have been much more difficult to, for instance, conduct many of the air strikes and so on fighting ISIL."
Turkey is a crucial NATO ally which is "most affected" by an influx of refugees prompted by prolonged conflicts in its neighbouring states of Iraq and Syria, Stoltenberg pointed out.
"We are also responding to the conflict in Syria by supporting Turkey - bordering Syria and Iraq, we have assurance measures, NATO presence in Turkey," he said.
Turkey has spent nearly $10 billion of its own resources on the refugees, whose number in the country has recently exceeded 2.7 million.
During the brutal Syrian civil war, nearly 8 million people have been displaced inside the country while at least 5 million have fled to the neighbouring countries Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.
Stoltenberg also commented on recent Russian assertiveness by saying that Moscow does not pose an "imminent threat" to NATO security although the country is increasing its military capabilities and activity, particularly in eastern Europe.
"What we see is a more assertive Russia responsible for aggressive actions in Ukraine and willing to use military force - not only invest in Russian military capabilities, but also that willingness to use those capabilities to intimidate neighbors, to change borders in Europe - annex Crimea, destabilising eastern Ukraine, and having troops in Georgia, in Moldova and so on," the NATO chief said.
"This is of course why we are responding," he stated.
Stoltenberg said NATO has made "significant progress" in its response efforts, "becoming more agile" and increasing its readiness to counter crises. He added that the alliance has developed "the largest reinforcement of [its] collective defence since the end of the Cold War."
"NATO's response force is now three times bigger than it was before with a brigade-sized high readiness force at its core," he stated.
Turkey's downing of a Russian jet near Syria border over an airspace violation "underlined just how important it is that we do our utmost military to military communications, to have expansive predictability, to avoid that kind of incidents," he added.