Turkey has rejected claims it is blackmailing Nato by blocking a military plan for the Baltics and Poland unless Turkey receives support for its effort to defeat Syrian Kurds forces on its borders.
The Turkish government made the claims ahead of what may prove to be a bruising meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and major European powers in Downing Street.
Turkey claimed it had full veto rights for any proposal within Nato.
“Nato is an institution where Turkey has full veto rights, politically and militarily, and there are procedures here,” Turkish government officials said. “There is no such thing as Turkey blackmailing – a statement like that is unacceptable.”
Erdoğan has blocked a defence plan for Poland and the Baltic states until Nato recognises that the Syrian Kurdish YPG are a terrorist threat that must be addressed.
At the four-way meeting with Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel on Tuesday, Erdoğan will demand Europe endorses his plan for “safe zone” and will also seek a EU donation for the reconstruction of northern Syria.
He will also complain that Nato allies have left Turkey alone in its fight against terror, particularly against the YPG. The meeting is a precursor to a wider Nato leaders meeting on Wednesday that could see divisions exposed across a wider front.
Macron is angry both at the Turkish decision to invade Syria, and the manner in which the decision was taken only in consultation with only Nato ally, the United States. Macron warned it will create a humanitarian disaster, undermine the YPG’s leading role in suppressing Islamic State, and complicate efforts to secure a peace settlement across Syria.
Britain and Germany are both critical of Turkish actions, but believe it would be a major strategic blunder if the criticism caused Turkey to desert Nato, and instead move to further cement its fledgling alliance with Vladimir Putin. Donald Trump, who endorsed Erdoğan’s decision to invade northern Syria on 6 October, is not due to attend the Downing Street meeting.
Trump has a separate dispute with Erdoğan over Turkey’s decision to purchase the Russian S-400 air defence system. Trump has warned it may make it impossible for the US to supply F-35 stealth fighters since the Russian provision of air defences to Turkey may enable Russia to learn about the F-35 operational methods.
Turkey says it can keep the S-400 technically apart from the Nato systems, and can limit its radar range.
Erdoğan has defied US warnings by activating the system and then saying only technicalities were holding back further orders from Moscow.
Turkey says its incursion into north-east Syria is designed to set up a safe zone that weakens the YPG, a faction that it claims is umbilically linked to Kurdistan Workers’ Party that it has been fighting for decades. Trump’s decision to give Erdoğan the green light has been seen by the US military and Republican senators alike as a policy disaster that has weakened US reputation for standing alongside allies such as the Syrian Kurds.
In a fresh sign of the chaos being caused by the invasion, nine civilians – most of them children – lost their lives, and 10 others were wounded on Monday in an attack by Turkish artillery against the town of Tel Rifaat, south of the Turkish border. As many as 230,000 people were displaced by the initial Turkish invasion, but many have now returned to their homes.
Turkey plans to establish a 32km-deep safe zone along a 120km stretch of the border, while on the east and west of the safe zone Turkish and Russian forces will conduct joint patrols. Turkey is holding back from expanding its safe zone partly due to agreements struck with Russia and the US.