LONDON: NATO leaders meet on Wednesday in the UK for crunch talks amid concerns that Turkey’s membership of the organization is “unraveling.”
High on the agenda will be Ankara’s aggressive policies in the region, particularly in Syria, and its decision to purchase a Russian missile system both politically and operationally out of sync with the alliance.
Turkey joined NATO, an alliance of countries serving as a bulwark to the Soviet Union, in 1952. As part of its membership, Turkey hosts a US airbase where dozens of American nuclear bombs are stored.
But Ankara’s relations with other NATO members and particularly the US have become increasingly strained, leading to some experts suggesting its place in the alliance is under threat.
“What we can see so far is Turkey’s relationship with NATO is slowly unraveling, even prior to the Turkish military incursion in northern Syria,” Fadi Hakura, manager of the Turkey Project at Chatham House, told Arab News.
Ankara launched an offensive into north-eastern Syria on Oct. 6, which, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is meant to expel Kurdish militias.
Also, ties between allies Ankara and Berlin deteriorated sharply in the run-up to Turkey’s April 16 referendum that handed Erdogan stronger presidential powers.
One of the first signs that the alliance’s relationship with Turkey was in serious trouble came in July 2017, when Germany began to pull its troops out of the Incirlik air base where they had supported international operations against Daesh following a row with Ankara over access.
Turkey prevented German lawmakers to visit roughly 250 troops stationed there, saying that Berlin needs to improve its attitude first.
Germany has expressed concern about the widespread security crackdown that followed a failed coup in Turkey in 2016. “It’s quite remarkable that a NATO member, like Germany, had to move its pilots and fighter jets from a NATO partner, namely Turkey, to a non-NATO member, and that is Jordan,” Hakura said.
Meanwhile, NATO members, led by the US, are expected to discuss Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 missile defense system bought from Russia.
Ankara and Washington have been at loggerheads over Turkey’s purchase of the system, which Washington says is not compatible with NATO defenses and poses a threat to its F-35 stealth fighter jets, which Lockheed Martin Corp. is developing.
Infuriating many members of Congress, Turkey shrugged off the threat of US sanctions and began receiving its first S-400 deliveries in July. In response, Washington removed Turkey from the F-35 program.
Tensions escalated when Turkey tested its S-400s up against US-made F-16 jets last week, following months of warnings from allies.
“So far, the Senate Republicans, in particular Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have followed the wishes of President Trump and avoided any congressional sanctions against Turkey. But I think, should Turkey proceed with the activation of the S-400 Russian anti-missile defense system, which looks extremely likely to happen, the Congress well enact some tough financial and economic sanctions against Turkey,” he said.
He added the sanctions are quite “serious and, according to the draft bills, may include financial sanctions against senior members of the Turkish government, sanctions preventing the US financial system, financial institutions or individuals dealing with certain ministries in Turkey, such as the ministry of defense, from purchasing Turkish debt.
Hakura also said Turkey is importing its bilateral and multilateral disputes with Europe and in the Middle East into the NATO summit.
“Turkey has so far vetoed or prevented NATO from approving a military plan to defend the Baltic region against the perceived Russian military threat, because in return, Turkey is demanding NATO endorsement of its military incursion into northern Syria, and that is not going to happen. NATO to will not provide any cover for Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria.”
Moreover, Greece’s prime minister will meet Erdogan on Wednesday in an attempt to ease frictions over energy exploration and Ankara’s deal with Libya’s Tripoli-based government on Mediterranean maritime zones, in another issue that Turkey has “imported” into the summit.
Libya and Turkey signed an agreement on boundaries in the Mediterranean last week that could complicate Ankara’s disputes over offshore energy exploration with nations including Greece.
Athens says the accord is geographically absurd because it ignores the presence of the Greek island of Crete between the coasts of Turkey and Libya.
“I think that Greece in particular wants NATO to take a stand against Turkey over its maritime agreement withLibya,” Hakura added.
Britain says war with Iran would strengthen militants
BRUSSELS: The EU’s diplomatic chief on Tuesday condemned Turkish “interference” in Libya after Ankara sent troops to support the UN-backed Tripoli government, warning this complicates the crisis in the oil-rich state.After emergency talks on the situation with the foreign ministers of France, Britain, Germany and Italy, Josep Borrell said the Turkish intervention was “something that we…
BRUSSELS: The EU’s diplomatic chief on Tuesday condemned Turkish “interference” in Libya after Ankara sent troops to support the UN-backed Tripoli government, warning this complicates the crisis in the oil-rich state.After emergency talks on the situation with the foreign ministers of France, Britain, Germany and Italy, Josep Borrell said the Turkish intervention was “something that we reject and which increases our worries about the situation in Libya”.
US warns ships in Middle East waterways of possible Iran action
LONDON: Britain on Tuesday called for calm after the United States killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and said a war with Iran would only benefit Islamist militants across the Middle East.“What we’re looking to do is to de-escalate the tensions with Iran and make sure in relation to Iraq that we don’t lose the…
LONDON: Britain on Tuesday called for calm after the United States killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and said a war with Iran would only benefit Islamist militants across the Middle East.“What we’re looking to do is to de-escalate the tensions with Iran and make sure in relation to Iraq that we don’t lose the hard-won gains that we secured against Daesh,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday said the US killing of Soleimani was state terrorism, and that Iran would ‘respond proportionately.’“We are concerned that if we see a full-blown war it would be very damaging and actually the terrorists, in particular Daesh, would be the only winners,” the British foreign secretary said.“We’re working with our US partners, our EU partners, that is why I’m travelling out to Brussels today, to make sure we send a very clear and consistent message on the need for de-escalation and to find a diplomatic route though.”
Arab League reaffirms rejection of foreign interference, calls for Libya solution
CAIRO: Egypt’s recent decision to transport ancient Pharaonic artifacts to a traffic circle in the congested heart of Cairo has fueled fresh controversy over the government’s handling of its archaeological heritage.Cairo has some of the worst air pollution in the world, according to recent studies. Archaeologists and heritage experts fear vehicle exhaust will damage the…
CAIRO: Egypt’s recent decision to transport ancient Pharaonic artifacts to a traffic circle in the congested heart of Cairo has fueled fresh controversy over the government’s handling of its archaeological heritage.Cairo has some of the worst air pollution in the world, according to recent studies. Archaeologists and heritage experts fear vehicle exhaust will damage the four ram-headed sphinxes and an obelisk, currently en route to their new home in Tahrir Square.Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has weighed in to say that similar obelisks are displayed in Western cities, according to a statement late Monday.But Dr. Monica Hanna, a heritage expert, said Egyptian artifacts in cities like London, Paris and New York are themselves endangered by being outdoors.“The sphinxes are made of sandstone, they are part of the dry environment in Luxor, when they would be moved to Tahrir Square with all the pollution, they will deteriorate as a result of the reactions with the carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the air,” Hanna told The Associated Press.She and a member of parliament are part of a lawsuit to block the artifacts’ move, filed recently by a local rights group.Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the government “will do everything” to protect the artifacts.Tahrir Square was the epicenter of Egypt’s so-called Arab Spring uprising in 2011. The square also contains the Egyptian Museum.The decision to move the artifacts as part of a larger renovation of Tahrir Square was taken without debate in parliament. The controversy only surfaced after archaeologists objected.Since coming to power in 2013, El-Sisi has touted a number of megaprojects aimed at rebuilding and expanding infrastructure. Those include an expansion of the Suez Canal and a new Egyptian museum near the Giza Pyramids.A centerpiece of the new museum is a towering statue of Ramses II. It once stood in a busy square near Cairo’s main railway station, but was removed in the 1990s due to preservation concerns.Waziri, the antiquities chief, said the four sphinxes are not part of the famed avenue of sphinxes in the city of Luxor. They were among several located behind the first edifice of the temple of Karnak.The obelisk was recently moved to Cairo from the San el-Haggar archaeological site in the Nile Delta, the ministry said.But Hanna, the heritage expert, stressed that the obelisks in Western capitals had been moved during the colonial era. “We really had no say in their shipment.”