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Turkish Defense Minister Says Ankara Not Leaving NATO, Is Key Alliance Member

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (file photo)

Turkey is a key NATO ally and has no intention of leaving the defense alliance, the country’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said at the 2019 Doha Forum on global security in Qatar on December 15.

Responding to a question on Turkey’s motivation for buying a sophisticated Russian missile system from Munich Security Conference Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger, the defense minister said Ankara remains committed to NATO’s mission.

“We are staying put in NATO and aren’t going anywhere. Ankara’s position is that membership in the military-political bloc remains unaltered,” he said at the panel, titled World Disorder: Meeting Emerging Global Security Challenges With Innovative Solutions.

Akar added that Turkey will continue carrying out its corresponding tasks in the alliance.

“Turkey’s ties with non-NATO countries, including Qatar, do not contradict the interests of the alliance,” he said. “We share with Doha experience and potential in all areas. The course towards cooperation with other countries is in no way an alternative to NATO or rapprochement with the EU.”

Ties between Turkey and fellow NATO member the United States have worsened since an attempted coup in 2016, which Erdogan has blamed on a Turkish businessman living in exile in the United States.

Relations worsened further when Erdogan said he would move to buy an advanced S-400 missile system from Russia, which is incompatible with NATO defense capabilities.

Washington has said the system poses a threat to U.S. F-35 jets and moved to remove Turkey from the fighter jet program.

And the move by Turkish armed forces to enter Syria in October, targeting U.S.-allied Kurdish forces there, have prompted vocal opposition from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

Last week, a U.S. Senate committee backed legislation to impose sanctions on Turkey for the S-400 missiles.

President Donald Trump's criticism of Erdogan has been largely muted, to the dismay of many U.S. lawmakers.

Last week, Congress finalized a resolution that recognized the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire a century ago as genocide, a move that angered Ankara.

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