Jul 11 2018

NATO “concerned” by missile threat to Turkey

Heads of government participating in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s Jul. 11-12 Summit in Brussels have issued a declaration expressing their concern for Turkey’s security due to the threat of missile threats from across the border in Syria.

“Syria has a significant inventory of short range ballistic missiles whose range covers part of NATO’s territory and some of our partners’ territories. Syria has used these missiles extensively against its own population,” the declaration’s 49th article states.

“We remain concerned that Turkey has been hit three times in the last four years by missiles launched from Syria.  We continue to monitor and assess the ballistic missile threat from Syria,” it continues.

A point that escapes mention in the declaration is that the latest of these attacks, which struck the Turkish border towns of Reyhanli and Kilis last January, were likely fired by the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a group that has been in collaboration with Turkey’s NATO allies the United States in the fight against the Islamic State.

The missiles were launched when Turkey invaded the northwest Syrian enclave of Afrin, a YPG stronghold, that January in order to drive the group away from its border. Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian satellite of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has pursued Kurdish self-rule through armed struggle since 1984.

Their contradictory policies in Syria created a deep rift between Turkey and the United States, which had deployed special forces alongside the YPG and affiliated groups in the Manbij area west of Afrin.

 This rift has been partially mended by a “roadmap” agreed by the NATO allies which has provided for joint patrols of the area and promises full YPG withdrawal from the area this year.

Aaron Stein, an analyst specialising in Turkish foreign policy and security, tweeted that the article had likely been added by Turkish demand.

NATO began to implement “tailored assurance measures” for Turkey in 2015 in acknowledgement of the challenging security environment faced by the country.

“These measures include additional AWACS presence in the region; increased maritime activities in the Eastern Mediterranean; and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance activities and information sharing,” according to NATO’s website.

Read the full text of the declaration here.