ANKARA, Turkey (AFP) – Turkey will block a NATO plan to defend Baltic countries unless the alliance recognizes a predominantly-Kurdish Syrian militia as terrorists, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday, December 3, before a London summit.
The NATO meeting, marking the alliance’s 70th anniversary, was set to be a tense affair with Turkey at odds with other members over its purchase of Russian missiles and recent offensive in northern Syria – among other issues.
Reuters reported last week that Ankara was blocking NATO’s new Baltic defense plan, demanding greater support in its fight against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
NATO has considered a plan to bolster the defenses of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia against a potential attack from Russia, though details remain unclear.
Erdogan said he had spoken to Poland’s President Andrzej Duda on Monday and would discuss the YPG issue with Poland and the Baltic countries in London.
“With joy, we will come together and have talks on this issue,” Erdogan said at a press conference in Ankara before boarding the plane.
“But if terror organizations whom we fight against are not accepted by NATO friends as terror groups, sorry but we will be against all steps to be taken there.”
The YPG is closely linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody insurgency against Turkey since 1984 and is designated a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies.
But Western countries do not consider the YPG a terrorist organization and have armed and trained the group as a frontline force in the ground war against Islamic State.
Turkey launched a military incursion into northeast Syria against the YPG in October over the objections of other NATO members.
Erdogan hit out last week at French President Emmanuel Macron for his criticism of the offensive, saying he was suffering from “brain death.”
Erdogan is due to take part in a four-way summit on Syria with leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom during the visit.
There are also tensions over Turkey’s recent purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, which could lead the U.S. to impose economic sanctions.
“Our good relations with Russia and other countries is not an alternative to our relationship with our allies. It’s the opposite: it is complementary,” Erdogan said.