Turkey has the right to defend itself: NATO chief

Turkey is the ally most affected by violence in Syria, Iraq, and has suffered terror attacks and a coup bid, says NATO head

NATO’s chief Friday argued vigorously Turkey’s right to defend itself, especially in the wake of last year’s coup attempt and the terrorist attacks it has been subjected to partially as a consequence of the Syrian civil war.

“We have to understand that Turkey is the ally most affected by the violence in Iraq and Syria. They have suffered many terrorist attacks and they suffered a coup attempt where several hundred people were killed and the parliament building was bombed while the parliamentarians were inside the building,” the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters after a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

He added, “Of course Turkey has the right to defend itself and it has the right to prosecute those behind the failed coup attempt.”

According to Turkey’s government, the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 2016 which left 249 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

Ankara has also said FETO is behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.

In the wake of the putsch attempt, tens of thousands of FETO suspects have been arrested, including many in the armed forces, police, judicial system, education and business sector.

Stoltenberg also praised contacts between the Council Europe and Turkey, saying, “The Council of Europe is the European body where Turkey is a member that has the tools and the responsibility for the European Convention of Human Rights, and so I welcome that there is direct contact between the Council of Europe and Turkey addressing these issues.”

The two main issues discussed at the meeting were how NATO can strengthen the transatlantic bond through fair burden-sharing and NATO’s response to terrorism, said Stoltenberg.

At the meeting, where Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu represented Turkey, preparations were also made for the May 25 meeting of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Turkey has been a NATO member state since 1952.