Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei has thanked Turkey for pushing NATO allies into watering down an official reaction to the forced landing by Belarus of a passenger plane and the detention of a dissident journalist.
NATO's 30 allies released a two-paragraph statement on May 26 condemning the forcing down of a Ryanair flight to arrest journalist Roman Protasevich but did not include any punitive steps that Baltic allies and Poland had pressed for.
The statement was also less strident than NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg's public remarks. He called the incident a "state hijacking" and "outrageous."
Ankara insisted that any mention of support for more Western sanctions on Belarus, and calls for the release of political prisoners there, would be left out of the text, two diplomats told Reuters last week. Language threatening a suspension of NATO's cooperation with Belarus was also removed, they added.
In return, Makei on May 31 said that Minsk is grateful to Ankara.
"According to the information we have, Turkey really opposed the adoption of such a statement. If so, then we are grateful to Turkey for such a position and approach," Makei said in an interview with the Kommersant newspaper.
"We have always been honest with all partners. We also supported Turkey during the  attempted coup, and we have absolutely close, friendly relations with this country," Makei said.
While Turkey's motives were not immediately clear, diplomats told Reuters last week that Ankara might be trying to preserve ties with Moscow, Belarus' closest ally, and maintain economic relations with Belarus via Turkish Airlines, which has daily flights to Minsk. Another possibility could be Turkey's keenness to welcome Russian tourists this summer after the COVID-19 pandemic.