NATO will help Turkey against Russia if needed
Stoltenberg also said that Russia’s continued support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is only serving to prolong the crisis there
NATO will help member country Turkey if needed, the alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday, days after Russian jets bombing Syria violated Turkish airspace.
Asked whether NATO would be prepared to defend ally Turkey against Russia, Stoltenberg said: “Turkey is a strong ally and they have the second-largest army,” he told Reuters.
“They have a capable air force, so the Turkish armed forces are the first responders, but NATO is there to help and assist them if they need.”
Stoltenberg also said that Russia’s continued support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is only serving to prolong the crisis there.
“Russia should play a constructive role in the fight against (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). To support the Assad regime is not constructive. This is only prolonging the war in Syria.”
He said there were no plans for the U.S.-led military alliance itself to send forces into Syria. “There are no plans for NATO as an alliance to go into Syria,” he said.
Russia, Assad’s main international backer, has sent its warplanes to strike anti-Assad opposition forces despite the United States and its allies urging Moscow to withdraw support from the Syrian leader and concentrate its firepower on ISIS militants.
Tensions have further mounted with NATO accusing Russian warplanes of violating the airspace of NATO member Turkey during their sorties.
On the question of NATO troop levels in Afghanistan, Stoltenberg said NATO allies were continuing discussion of a planned withdrawal by the end of 2016.
But he said the Alliance would not leave Afghanistan entirely. “NATO is not going to leave Afghanistan, NATO will stay in Afghanistan. What we are discussing is in what way are we going to support the Afghans.
“Even if the support mission ends at the end of 2016 we will not leave Afghanistan. The main idea is that we will continue to support in one way or another,” he said.
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