NATO and Turkey reiterate strong bonds in wake of coup and Putin visit | News | DW | 10.08.2016
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NATO and Turkey reiterate strong bonds in wake of coup and Putin visit

Turkey's membership of NATO is not in question following the recent failed coup, the alliance has said. Ankara meanwhile said that its aim of boosting defense industry cooperation with Russia is not a step against NATO.

Polen Nato-Gipfel in Warschau - Angela Merkel & Tayyip Erdogan

A week after Turkish President Erdogan attended NATO's annual summit in Warsaw, his government repelled an attempted coup

"Turkey's NATO membership is not in question," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement issued on Wednesday in response to what she called "speculative press reports."

"NATO counts on the continued contributions of Turkey, and Turkey can count on the solidarity and support of NATO," Lungescu said.

The statement comes a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Russia.

The Saint Petersburg visit was Erdogan's first reconciliatory meeting with Putin since the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey last fall. The defense industry was named as one of several sectors where Ankara intended to return Turkish-Russian ties to pre-crisis levels.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, meanwhile, was quick to reassure NATO on Wednesday that Turkey's aim of boosting defense industry cooperation with Russia should not be interpreted as a step against NATO.

The Turkish pilots who shot down a Russian jet last November were in custody, the minister added. They were being detained for their alleged links to the coup plot and not the shooting incident itself, he said.

Turkey has the second-largest standing army in NATO after the US and is seen as a key actor in facing the conflict and upheaval in the Middle East.

Not very neighborly

Relations between Ankara and Brussels have, however, been strained in recent months, and in particular since July's failed coup.

Erdogan has criticized the US and EU for not showing more support in the aftermath of the coup.

Turkey went so far as to accuse the EU on Wednesday of "encouraging" the plotters on the night of the July 15 coup.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Constantine palace in St. Petersburg, August 9, 2016.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Constantine palace in St. Petersburg, August 9, 2016.

Cavusoglu said "Turkish people's confidence in the EU had unfortunately fallen in the wake of the coup," adding that the bloc had "failed a test" on the night of the putsch.

"Let me say openly, this is because the EU adopted a favorable position to the coup [and] encouraged the putschists," the minister told reporters during a televised briefing in Ankara. "Support for EU membership used to be around 50 percent of the population; I assume it is around 20 percent now."

Ankara previously expressed astonishment that no EU official had visited Turkey in the wake of the coup.

Lungescu, meanwhile, said NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg had telephoned Erdogan in the immediate aftermath and had "strongly condemned the attempted coup and reiterated full support for Turkey's democratic institutions."

"He expressed support for the elected government of Turkey and respect for the courage of the Turkish people," she noted. "He also conveyed his condolences for those who had lost their lives during the coup attempt."

On Tuesday, Turkey's Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag warned the US not to sacrifice bilateral relations for the sake of Pennsylvania-based preacher Fethullah Gulen. Turkey claims that Gulen orchestrated the failed coup, and has repeatedly demanded Washington extradite Gulen to face trial in Turkey.

Ankara said last week that US Secretary of State John Kerry would visit on August 24, the first visit by a top Western dignitary since the July 15 attempted coup.

jbh/msh (AFP, dpa)

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