Press point by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the North Atlantic Council meeting at Turkey's request for Article 4 consultations on the situation in Syria
NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
28 Feb. 2020
The North Atlantic Council has just met, following a request by Turkey to hold consultations under article 4 of NATO's founding Washington Treaty on the situation in Syria.
Under article 4 of the Treaty, any Ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.
I spoke to the Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu last night about the situation in Syria.
And he requested these consultations. Today Turkey briefed on the serious security situation in Syria.
Allies offer their deepest condolences for the death of Turkish soldiers in last night's bombing in Idlib. And expressed their full solidarity with Turkey.
Allies condemn the continued indiscriminate air strikes by the Syrian regime and Russia in Idlib province.
I call on them to stop their offensive. To respect international law. And to back UN efforts for a peaceful solution.
This dangerous situation must be deescalated and we urge an immediate return to the 2018 ceasefire. To avoid further worsening of the horrendous humanitarian situation in the region. And to allow urgent humanitarian access for those trapped in Idlib.
Today's meeting is a clear sign of solidarity with Turkey. Turkey is a valued NATO Ally and Turkey is the NATO Ally most affected by the terrible conflict in Syria, which has suffered the most terrorist attacks, and which hosts millions of refugees.
NATO continues to support Turkey with a range of measures. Including by augmenting its air defences. This helps Turkey against the threat of missile attacks from Syria.
I thank Turkey for briefing Allies regularly on the situation in Syria.
Allies will continue to follow developments on the South-eastern border of NATO and to consult very closely.
And with that, I'm ready for your questions.
Moderator: We will start with NTV
NTV Turkey – Can you on one hand tell us what was the support given by member states in light of the briefing given by the Ambassador, and do you think that it's also – because you mentioned tailored assurance measures for Turkey – do you think it's an opportunity to at least fulfil all the gaps, because you are just delivering 40% of it and there is still a gap of 60 %? Thank you.
NATO Secretary General – So NATO Allies expressed their deepest condolences to those who have lost their loved ones, to family members and to the people of Turkey.
We also stated very clearly that we call on Russia and the Assad regime to stop the attacks, to stop the indiscriminate air attacks and also to engage and support UN-led efforts to find a lasting peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria. And we also call on Russia and Syria to fully respect international law. Because we have seen bombing of civilian targets, we have seen increased humanitarian suffering and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes. NATO Allies provide support for Turkey today. We augment their air defences, we have AWACS planes helping to patrol the skies, and we also have port visits and provide support in other ways. But Allies are constantly looking into what more they can do to provide further support for Turkey.
Anadolu – Mr. Secretary General, Yusuf Hatip from Anadolu Agency. Could we expect any more concrete steps from NATO as the situation in Syria is worsening, the humanitarian situation especially? There are 3 million civilians waiting on the border of Turkey. Could we expect any concrete steps to attacks on Turkey soon, and if yes can you inform us if it was discussed during the meeting?
NATO Secretary General - NATO provides strong political support and we also provide practical support. We provide practical support with different assurance measures and we are constantly assessing, and Allies are looking at what more they can do and that was also expressed clearly in the meeting today. We are of course also constantly monitoring and following the situation very closely. And Turkey is regularly updating NATO Allies. And I also spoke with the Turkish foreign minister late last night when he requested this meeting. And just the meeting we had today is a clear demonstration of NATO solidarity and expression of support from all the NATO Allies to our NATO Ally Turkey. We are strongly supporting and NATO Allies are engaged in trying to move forward in efforts, in the UN-led efforts to find a peaceful solution and we call Turkey, we call on Syria and Russia to fully engage in such UN-led efforts to find a peaceful solution.
Moderator – Kabul Times, last question
Kabul Times – Thank you very much. Secretary General I know that you are talking about Syria but the situation in Afghanistan is also very important. And tomorrow the US and Taliban will sign an agreement and also the Afghan government with US, renew their base.
What will be the next step for NATO, and also will you also reduce troops if the US decides to reduce their troops from Afghanistan?
NATO Secretary General – We are closer to a peace agreement than ever before in Afghanistan. And NATO will continue to support the efforts to find a peaceful and negotiated solution. We have seen a significant reduction in violence in Afghanistan over the last days. And therefore we are also very close to signing of an agreement between the United States and the Taliban. This will be only the first, but very important first step towards a lasting peace agreement in Afghanistan. Because the only way to find a lasting sustainable peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan is to have an inter-Afghan process, inter Afghan negotiations, and an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. And that's the next step. And the road to peace will be long and hard. And there will be setbacks and there is a risk always for spoilers. But the thing is that we are committed, the Afghan people are committed to peace and we will continue to provide support. We will support the Afghan security forces with training, with funding. Because we have to send a clear message to the Taliban that they will never win on the battlefield.They have to sit down at the negotiating table and make real compromises. So we will continue to support them because that's the best way we can create the conditions for a peaceful negotiated solution in Afghanistan.And I also would like to commend the Afghan security forces. Because they have made enormous progress, we have helped them, but they are now on the front line, and they are providing security for the country and we will continue to provide support because that is the best way to support a peaceful solution.
Moderator: Thank you very much, this concludes this press point.
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