WARSAW (Reuters) – A senior Polish official said Monday there could be no backtracking from a NATO decision to pursue a defence plan for Poland and the Baltics after Ankara suggested it might still block it until allies designate a Kurdish militia as terrorists.
After a NATO summit in London last week, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey had withdrawn its objections but added that the allies had not discussed how to designate the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.
Speaking also after the summit, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said NATO allies must not abandon Turkey in its fight against terrorists after it approved the Poland-Baltics plan.
Two days later Turkey’s foreign minister said it would block final publication of the Poland-Baltics defence blueprint until allies agreed to brand the YPG a terrorist group.
“There is no going back from the decision made at NATO (last week),” Krzysztof Szczerski, an aide to Poland’s president, told Reuters on Monday. “Decisions were made for both the Polish-Baltic and the Turkish plans and now we are waiting to implement the plans. That’s a military matter.”
On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara had only given approval for the Poland-Baltics plan to move to another stage of debate, not full approval.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar reaffirmed on Monday that Ankara wanted both defence plans to be published together and said Turkey would not yield on its demands regarding the YPG.
“We allowed the Poland and Baltic plan, which is under revision, to pass the NATO Council and be re-evaluated at the military committee,” Akar told state media.
“However, after talks with the NATO Secretary-General, we agreed that both plans should be published at the same time,” he said, adding that Turkey was open to cooperating on the issue.
Turkey deems the YPG, the main component of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as a terrorist group linked to Kurdish insurgents on its own soil, and has been infuriated by the support its NATO allies have provided the militia as a partner in fighting Islamic State militants in Syria.
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska in Warsaw and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Editing by Mark Heinrich)