BRUSSELS – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who said he wants no part of disputes between Greece and Turkey over rights to the seas and other issues, said that Turkey is an “important ally” of the defense alliance.
He didn’t mention that Turkey was barred from buying US-made F-35 fighter jets after acquiring an S-400 missile defense system from Russia – an ideological enemy – that undermines NATO’s security and could be used against Greece in a conflict.
Nor did he talk about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pledge to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO, supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin who warned there would be consequences otherwise.
Stoltenberg has refused to intervene in any way over Turkey violating Greek airspace at the same time the United States has condemned it – although President Joe Biden wants to sell Turkey more F-16s and upgrade Turkey’s air fleet.
Stoltenberg was speaking ahead of a planned gathering of senior officials from Sweden, Finland and Turkey in Brussels next week to discuss Turkey’s opposition to the Nordic countries joining the defense alliance.
Stoltenberg spoke to reporters after meeting with Biden and White House National Security adviser Jake Sullivan at the White House for what was billed as preparatory talks for the Madrid NATO meeting in June.
There was no mention of Stoltenberg’s comments being contradictory to those of the US although he was said to have talked about Erdogan’s vow to block Sweden and Finland, which some Greek officials said open blackmail to try to get the US to also sell Turkey F-35’s.
Stoltenberg said someone will figure out some way to soften Erdogan’s stance although the Turkish leader also said he could use the veto to force the United Nations to accept the Turkish-Cypriot occupied northern third of Cyprus seized in two unlawful 1974 Turkish invasions.
“I think we need to also recognize that Turkey is an important ally. Turkey contributes to our security in many different ways,” said Stoltenberg, who noted the country’s Turkey’s efforts at countering Islamic State militants – battle long over – but didn’t say Turkey is undermining NATO ate the same time.
Erdogan has insisted Finland and Sweden must show more respect for Turkish sensitivities about terrorism since the countries filed their NATO applications and said they support Kurdish militants he deems terrorists.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)