• publish: 13 June 2021
  • time: 5:34 pm
  • category: Politics
  • No: 17992

Erdoğan heads to Brussels for NATO summit, Biden meeting

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday departed for Brussels to attend the NATO summit, in which the trans-Atlantic alliance’s “NATO 2030” process will be evaluated.

The summit will also focus on potential threats and challenges to NATO security with an exchange of views at the strategic level. As part of ending the NATO mission in Afghanistan this year, steps for ensuring the continuation of the alliance’s support to Afghanistan will also be evaluated in the summit.

According to NATO, the summit is being held to respond to the challenges “of today and tomorrow.” These include terrorism, cyberattacks, disruptive technologies and the security implications of climate change. The NATO 2030 initiative to “continue adapting” the alliance is at the heart of the summit.

While Erdoğan is expected to hold bilateral meetings with other NATO leaders on the sidelines of the summit, the meeting with the United States President Joe Biden comes to the forefront, as it will be the first face-to-face interaction between the two since the latter’s election as president.

Erdoğan will also hold one-on-one meetings with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, Latvian President Egils Levits, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. He is also expected to meet French President Emmanuel Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

The issue of Afghanistan will be one of the main topics of the NATO summit. Under the February 2020 deal secured with the Taliban under former President Donald Trump, all U.S. forces were to be out of Afghanistan by May 1.

But Biden said in April that the pullout would be completed by the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, the al-Qaida attacks on the U.S. that prompted the U.S.-led invasion and ouster of the Taliban government that sheltered the group.

With violence raging, many U.S. lawmakers and current and former officials fear that the departure of the foreign forces and stalled peace talks are pushing Afghanistan into an all-out civil war that could return the Taliban to power.

The Pentagon says the U.S. withdrawal is more than 50% complete. Turkey, with more than 500 soldiers still in Afghanistan training security forces, now has the largest foreign military contingent there.

Turkey’s potential role in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the planned U.S. pullout could serve as an area of cooperation. Turkey has offered to guard and run Kabul’s airport after NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan. The airport plan may offer a rare opportunity to build goodwill and trust and could help improve ties between Ankara and the West.

Turkish officials say they made the Kabul airport proposal at a NATO meeting in May when the U.S. and its partners agreed to a plan to withdraw their forces by Sept. 11 after 20 years of backing the Afghan government in a war against the Taliban.

“We intend to stay in Afghanistan depending on conditions. What are our conditions? Political, financial and logistical support. If these are met, we can remain at Hamid Karzai International Airport,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said last week. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also said that Turkey was discussing the security of the airport with allies, namely the U.S., but that no country could handle the mission without support.

Following statements from Ankara, the Pentagon said that Turkey and the U.S. held preliminary talks on the security of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport after the withdrawal of American and other NATO forces from Afghanistan.

At the request of the U.S., Turkey also pledged to host a high-level international peace conference on Afghanistan in April, but the Taliban declined to attend, forcing Ankara to postpone it. Ankara also recently pointed to continuing efforts for the Afghanistan peace process in coordination with Washington.

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