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NATO member states wary of Turkey’s row with Russia

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hands with Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces Hulusi Akar (L) in Ankara, Feb. 18, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Some NATO member states have expressed alarm at Turkey's escalation with Russia, saying they would not get involved in a potential confrontation.

Officials from NATO members expressed serious concerns about the tensions that have been brewing ever since Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian aircraft inside Syria.

They are also concerned over Turkish threats to deploy ground troops to Syria, where Russia is carrying out an aerial campaign against terrorist groups on Damascus’ request.

“The armed forces of the two states are both active in fierce fighting on the Turkish-Syrian border, in some cases just a few kilometers from each other,” German magazine Der Spiegel quoted Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn as saying.

“NATO cannot allow itself to be pulled into a military escalation with Russia as a result of the recent tensions between Russia and Turkey,” Asselborn added.

He said that Article 5 of the alliance’s founding treaty, which guarantees backing for any of its member countries, in a potential confrontation with a foreign enemy, “is only valid when a member state is clearly attacked.”

French President Francois Hollande also emphasized on Friday that Ankara’s growing involvement in war-ravaged Syria was generating a risk of war between Turkey and Russia.

French President Francois Hollande (photo by AFP)

“Turkey is involved in Syria... There, there is a risk of war,” said Hollande in remarks to local broadcaster France Inter radio.

Der Spiegel cited an unnamed German diplomat as saying, “We are not going to pay the price for a war started by the Turks.”

NATO’s leadership expressed similar concerns soon after Turkey downed the Russian jet within Syrian territory in November 2015, with of the pilots killed by militants on the ground.

“We have to avoid that situations, incidents, accidents spiral out of control,” NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said at the time.

“I think I’ve expressed very clearly that we are calling for calm and de-escalation. This is a serious situation.”

Following Ankara’s recent threats to escalate the violence in Syria, Russia called for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss a Moscow-drafted resolution over the growing tensions.

Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz delivers a speech on February 16, 2016, calling for a ground operation in Syria with Turkey’s international allies. (Photo by AFP)

“The situation is becoming more tense due to increased tensions on the Syrian-Turkish border and Turkey’s stated plans to send troops to northern Syria,” read a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The draft resolution called on all states to avoid “provocative rhetoric and inflammatory statements” that could further trigger foreign interference in Syria’s internal affairs rather than promoting a political resolution of the conflict.

The Security Council meeting was held on Friday, and its veto-wielding Western members — the US, France and Britain — all rejected the Russian-proposed resolution.

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