Turkey pushed NATO allies into softening outrage over Belarus aircraft, diplomats say By Reuters

2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Flags of NATO member international locations flutter on the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir 2/2 By Humeyra Pamuk and Robin Emmott WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Turkey pushed NATO allies into watering down an official response to the pressured touchdown by Belarus of a passenger aircraft and


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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Flags of NATO member international locations flutter on the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

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By Humeyra Pamuk and Robin Emmott

WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Turkey pushed NATO allies into watering down an official response to the pressured touchdown by Belarus of a passenger aircraft and the detention of a dissident journalist on Sunday, two diplomats conversant in the matter advised Reuters.

NATO’s 30 allies launched a two-paragraph assertion on Wednesday condemning the forcing down of a Ryanair flight to arrest journalist Roman Protasevich however didn’t embody any punitive steps that Baltic allies and Poland had pressed for.

The assertion was additionally much less strident than NATO Secretary-Basic Jens Stoltenberg’s public remarks. He known as the incident a “state hijacking” and “outrageous”.

Ankara insisted that any point out of assist for extra Western sanctions on Belarus, and requires the discharge of political prisoners there, could be overlooked of the textual content, the 2 diplomats stated. Language threatening a suspension of NATO’s cooperation with Belarus was additionally eliminated, they added.

Turkey’s motives weren’t instantly clear.

Diplomats stated Ankara is likely to be attempting to protect ties with Moscow, Belarus’ closest ally, and preserve financial relations with Belarus by way of Turkish Airways, which has day by day flights to Minsk. One other risk may very well be Turkey’s keenness to welcome Russian vacationers this summer season after the COVID-19 pandemic.

A spike in coronavirus infections final month and a flurry of overseas journey warnings have worn out many early bookings and raised prospects of one other misplaced vacationer season for Turkey, which depends on the money influx to fund its heavy overseas debt.

The Turkish overseas ministry didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

A NATO official stated: “The assertion by the North Atlantic Council on Belarus was agreed by all 30 Allies by consensus. We don’t go into the main points of discussions within the North Atlantic Council, that are confidential.”

One of many diplomats stated Stoltenberg had received the settlement of all allies, together with Turkey, for the ultimate textual content, revealed on NATO’s web site, to keep away from additional public divisions.

UPSET

Turkey’s insistence on a watered-down textual content upset quite a few allies, notably Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, which had pushed for harder wording, the diplomats stated.

A 3rd diplomat stated Ankara’s pushback was primarily geared toward utilizing a unique wording to that of the European Union, which detailed proposals for sanctions. These included a ban on the overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airways, stopping Belarusian airways from utilizing EU airports and calling on EU airways to keep away from Belarus.

Turkey shouldn’t be an EU member, although it has been a candidate for a few years.

“Many allies had been very pissed off with Turkey. It was vital for NATO to reply and it isn’t clear why Ankara ought to wish to defend (Belarusian President Alexander) Lukashenko,” stated a European diplomat current on the dialogue.

Turkey has turn out to be a harder associate in recent times for some NATO allies, clashing with France over Turkish coverage in Libya, with the USA on Syria and with Greece over vitality rights within the Mediterranean.

Turkey has additionally purchased air defence missiles from Russia, which NATO says is an adversary attempting to destabilise the West.

The US and European Union have criticised what they see as a slide in direction of extra authoritarian rule underneath President Tayyip Erdogan, particularly since a failed 2016 coup.

However Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO and is in a strategic location between Europe and the Center East and with coasts on the Black and Mediterranean Seas, is just too massive and vital for the EU or the USA to disregard.

Ankara has stated repeatedly it helps NATO however that it has the appropriate to pursue its personal sovereign overseas coverage.





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