Duvar English/Reuters

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Dec. 4 that Turkey  dropped its block on a plan to bolster the defenses of Baltic states and Poland against Russia, as he spoke in a press conference after a NATO summit outside London.

Tensions rose between Ankara and its Western ahead of the NATO summit, with Ankara opposing the defense plan if the alliance fails to designate the People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a terrorist organization.

In the news conference, Stoltenberg said that NATO leaders did not discuss the YPG issue.

Relations between Turkey and its NATO allies have been strained over a host of issues, ranging from Ankara’s decision to procure Russian air defense systems to Syria policy.

Several NATO members condemned Turkey’s decision to launch an offensive into northeastern Syria against the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Turkey perceives the YPG as a terrorist organization due to the group being the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated a terror group by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, meanwhile, said that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not issue demands in return for an agreement to back NATO’s defense plans.

“No one demanded anything from us for this. We all thanked President Erdoğan for his solidarity,” Nauseda told journalists.

Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems also created a rift between the alliance and Turkey, with the U.S. removing Turkey from its F-35 fighter jets programme.

Upon a question regarding the S-400s, Stoltenberg said that the Russian system can never be integrated into NATO defenses.

In a final press conference after the summit, Stoltenberg also said that NATO was in favor of dialogue and a better relationship with Russia, and believed that China should be part of future arms limitations or reductions talks.

“We recognize that China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance,” the declaration released after the summit read.

Trump, Erdoğan meet on sidelines of NATO summit

Also on Dec. 4, U.S. President Donald Trump and Erdoğan held talks on the sidelines of the NATO summit.

“The two presidents discussed the importance of Turkey fulfilling its alliance commitments, further strengthening commerce through boosting bilateral trade by $100 billion, regional security challenges and energy security,” a White House spokesman said, while Turkish Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun praised the meeting as being “very productive.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın were present in the meeting that lasted for 30 minutes.

When asked about the meeting with Erdoğan, Trump said “it was a very good meeting.”

“It was a very good meeting. We discussed Syria. We discussed the Kurds,” Trump said, adding that Turkey has been doing a good job as a NATO member.

“The border and the safe zone is working out very well and I give Turkey a lot of credit for that. The ceasefire is holding,” Trump said.

“That border is a mess for a long time,” he said, adding: “We have soldiers where the oil is and that’s the way I like it.”

Trump defended his decision in October to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, saying Turkey’s efforts in the region earned “great respect” from many people.  

“They’ve been doing a good job also on the border and in the safe zone,” he said.