Q and A session at the joint press conference by NATO Secretary General and Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs
[Woman] My question is to Secretary General Stoltenberg. I would like to ask how does NATO think about the PYD and YPG and its affiliation with the PKK in the NATO assessment documents. And I would like to ask whether the NATO has ever assessed the PYD and YPG as a terrorist threat to NATO or any of its members? Thank you.
NATO does not have a public list where we list different organizations as terrorist organizations. Some other national organizations have that kind of list, for instance the UN and EU, but NATO does not have that kind of public list, where we list terrorist organizations. We fight terrorism in all its forms and all its manifestations and we do that together in NATO. We do it in the Global Coalition to Defeat the Daesh. NATO, all NATO Allies have been part of the Global Coalition all the way and we have made enormous progress in the fight against Daesh. Daesh is still a threat, Daesh is a common enemy, and therefore we need to make sure that the gains we have made are not jeopardized. We also have to remember that NATO’s presence in countries like Afghanistan or Iraq is also about fighting terrorism. We strongly believe that the best way of fighting terrorism is to train local forces and that is what we do in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And, again, Turkey is an important part of that. Turkey is one of the lead nations in Afghanistan and we highly appreciate the contributions from Turkey to NATO’s efforts in the fight against terrorism. When it comes to the situation northern Syria, and also YPG, there is a known fact that there are different views among NATO Allies. NATO is not present on the ground in northern Syria, but we are part of the Global Coalition and we continue to fight terrorism. But we are not on the ground in northern Syria.
[Translator] My question is to Mr Cavusoglu. The Operation Peace Spring is being conducted by Turkey and there is also a lot of criticism and libeling in the social media against that. So how would you interpret it? Thank you very much for the question. We’ve seen all forms of misinformation on the media during the Olive Branch Operation. They have also initiated this misinformation in social media by the YPG and PYD, and while we were conducting Euphrates Shield the same was done by members of Daesh. Turkey, they claim that Turkey is targeting the civilians, this will never happen and has never happened. Turkey has always been very sensitive about the civilians and Turkey is hosting so many migrants and refugees that it’s unthinkable. We have seen that on social media. We’ve seen cases in which the YPG has themselves attacked the Christians in Syria and tried to misportray it as if Turks were attacking the Christians. We proved otherwise, and they’re also burning tires in order to oblique the vision of our aircraft and then blaming Turkey for bombing and burning places where civilians live. This misinformation will never make us give up on this important fight. We are fighting, yes, a terrorist organization and it is our duty to give the right information to the people. And our official agencies and all the agencies and the Ministry will continue to share information with the the world. My question is to Mr Stoltenberg. If there is any sanction decision by the US Congress against Turkey, what will NATO do? Do you have any plans, and do you also have any plans for Turkey?
I think it’s wrong if I start to speculate about hypothetical situations. What I can say is that Turkey is an important and strong NATO Ally and it is important for our collective defense, for our different missions and operations, including in the fight against terrorism. And for us it is important to have Turkey as a strong and committed Ally, because we are all safer when we stand together. And we have to remember that the progress, for instance, we have made in the fight against Daesh has been very much supported, and very much dependent on, the contributions of Turkey: Turkish forces, Turkish infrastructure, Turkish bases has been critical in the progress we have made together in fighting terrorism, especially the fight against Daesh. So, what is also reflected by the fact that this is my second visit to Turkey this year and I visited Turkey many times as Secretary General, highlights also the importance of Turkey as an Ally in the in the NATO Alliance. And therefore, I appreciate the many ways Turkey can contribute to our collective defense and our Alliance in NATO.
[Translator] Hello, my name is (mumbles) News Agency. I’d like to ask a question to Mr Cavusoglu. Turkey is all watching the news (reporter speaking in foreign language) from northern Syria very diligently. We are losing people. Germany, Belgium, UK and Poland have made a joint declaration after this meeting in NATO and they have completely disregarded NATO’s principle of an attack against an Ally is an attack against the Alliance, and they said that this operation is Turkey’s unilateral attack. How do you feel about this? (speaking in foreign language) Well, these statements did not only come from the EU members, the six members of the EU, they had to make that statement because they couldn’t make the NATO take the decision they wanted it to take. And we have also seen very similar statements from other EU members. They all know that the PKK and YPG are one and the same. And they always start their statements by saying that Turkey’s security concerns are justified and legitimate. If Turkey’s concerns are legitimate, then Turkey has the legitimate right to fight against a terrorist organization which causes these concerns. And although we don’t have such an obligation, we made an announcement and gave notice to all the members of the international community, including the NATO, and we have also very clearly indicated the relevant articles that justify our operation in the international law. You are acknowledging that this is a legitimate fight, but on the other hand you have a terrorist organization. You may have had relations with that terrorist organization, you may have had given them arms and equipped them, but it’s not my problem, it’s your hypocrisy. On one hand you are calling them terrorists and acknowledging our concerns and on the other hand you are not approving this operation. Turkey has tried its best to resolve this problem in the international community. And it had to do this because there was no resolution. Now, vis-a-vis the Secretary General, I’d like to say something. There are plans that are adopted and there is also a plan to protect Turkey, and the NATO Council approved a plan to protect Turkey against the YPG and PKK. However, later on, eight countries, including the EU members, have blocked this decision from getting ratified unjustifiably and unfairly. Now YPG and PKK are named on NATO documents. YPG and PYD are on those documents that we all know that YPG, PYD and the PKK are synonymous. Yes, Daesh is our common enemy, we acknowledge that, and it’s only our soldiers that fought a one-to-one fight against Daesh in Iraq, as well. Isn’t PKK our common enemy? Daesh is our common enemy, we should fight against that. PKK is also our common enemy, but we shouldn’t fight against them, and so Turkey shouldn’t fight against them either? We’re against this kind of interpretation and we also see that on the documents there are two paragraphs that are completely identical and all of our Allies are reading the same paragraph and it is very evident that those paragraphs that have been written by some other authority or some other place. We are very sensitive against this. Our President is very sensitive against any harm to the civilians, so we are doing our best and everybody should hear the (mumbles) suffering there, including the suffering of the Christians. Everybody should hear that they need us to protect them. We are determined, our target is the terrorists and we will do our best to eliminate terrorism from that region. We are very determined and if the Daesh terrorists are in the safe zone where we are conducting the operation, they will never be released. There are also some Daesh elements in Turkey’s prisons. We want to extradite them, but the countries where they will be extradited don’t accept them. We are very determined, more determined than anybody else, because we are living next door to Daesh, and Daesh took Turkey as a target more than any other country. And Baghdadi, in all his statements, targets our President Erdogan, because we are very effective in also killing their ideology. So we will continue to fight against Daesh as well.
[Man] The question is both to the Secretary General and the Minister. Yesterday the Spanish government said that it’s thinking on not renewing the mission with the Patriot defense missile system in Adana, because of the things going on in northern Syria. So if the situation escalates, they will not renew in December this mission they have. What’s the opinion of both the Minister, the Turkish government, and NATO Secretary General? Thank you.
[Translator] Today we discussed this topic with the Secretary General and the Secretary General and NATO have taken a role that we do appreciate very much for many years and for this I wholeheartedly thank the Secretary General Stoltenberg and his colleagues. Turkey did not to have any air defense system so far, NATO was giving us support and they, the U.S., withdrew all the Patriots and we are thankful to Spain and Italy for keeping their Patriots on our borders so far. And Spain has given us notice that they will not renew their contracts. There is a rotation here and we will continue this process with NATO. We thank Italy and Spain for their support so far. But there is something that’s very telling here, the thing that’s telling is that Turkey has to own its own air defense system. We shouldn’t try to convince this and that Ally. And we’ve also heard that Macron himself is also thinking about buying, is thinking about a contract for a Patriot system to be lended to Turkey. However, this is a clear indication that we need our own air defense system, because otherwise all solutions are transitory, they are not permanent. I wish we could have both our air defense system from our Allies, but we couldn’t, so we had to buy the S-400s. And it’s a clear indication that we will need more air defense systems for the future.
NATO supports Turkey in many different ways. And NATO has increased its military presence in Turkey over the last years, with different air defense batteries to help to protect Turkey’s southern border, with more naval presence and also with more presence in the air. On top of that, we have also, over the years, last years, invested five billion U.S. dollars in different kinds of military infrastructure, to help to strengthen the defenses of Turkey, including different radar sites. So this shows that NATO is present in Turkey, helping to protect Turkey. And we have actually increased that presence over the last years. And of course, I expect that NATO Allies will continue to provide support to Turkey, because this is something we have agreed. And Turkey is on the forefront of a fight which is important for all of us. It’s not only Turkey that is affected by the instability, the violence in the Middle East, it affects all NATO Allies. So when NATO Allies are in Turkey, we are there to protect Turkey, but we’re also here to protect ourselves. And the fight against Daesh is perhaps the best example of that. Of course, no NATO Ally has suffered more than Turkey. And Turkey has legitimate security concerns, and they have been on the frontline. But it matters also for all the NATO Allies, and that’s the reason why we have increased our presence, and why we should continue to provide support to Turkey. We have deployed air defense batteries over several years, but I also welcome the fact that Turkey is now looking into the possibility of buying additional air defense batteries from other NATO Allies. As Minister Cavusoglu mentioned, there is a dialogue going on with France and Italy and I also know there has been contacts and dialogue with the United States, about the question of acquiring Patriot batteries, and there are also other options coming from other NATO Allied countries. So I welcome this, and together, this is important again, for Turkey and for the whole NATO Alliance.