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Despite issues, NATO military chief calls Turkey a valuable ally

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, chairman of the NATO Military Committee (L), met with Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. Yasar Guler (R) during Peach's two-day visit to Turkey. Photo courtesy of NATO 
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, chairman of the NATO Military Committee (L), met with Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. Yasar Guler (R) during Peach's two-day visit to Turkey. Photo courtesy of NATO 

Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Despite concerns over Turkish aggression, Turkey's contributions to NATO were praised during a visit this week by the bloc's military committee commander.

"Turkey makes essential contributions to NATO operations and activities," Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach said before departing Istanbul on Tuesday. "NATO is working to strengthen further our collective deterrence and defense, and to project stability beyond our borders, and Turkey is playing a key role in both."

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While in Turkey he met with Turkish military officials, Foreign Affairs Minister Melvut Cavuslogu and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, according to a NATO press release.

Peach also visited the NATO Defense Against Terrorism Command while in Ankara during his two-day visit. He noted that Turkey is the NATO ally most affected by the turmoil in Syria, although he stressed that Turkey must be involved in finding a solution to the crisis.

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No other ally has suffered more from terrorist attacks. Peach also noted that NATO will continue to support Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, with a range of measures, including defensive missile systems.

His favorable comments come as NATO deals with a number of issues suggesting that Turkey is becoming an aggressive and nationalistic member of the bloc, and NATO's "elephant in the room," as some diplomats have phrased the situation.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Edrogan's 17-year rule has turned into an authoritarian, strongman regime, and Phillip Gordon, who dealt with Turkey as U.S. assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration, said in August that it's "getting hard to describe Turkey as an ally of the U.S."

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In 2019, Turkey purchased the S-400 missile air defense program from Russia, over strenuous objections from NATO and the United States. It has been consistently critical of Israel, and has begun drilling for natural gas in the Mediterranean Sea despite objections from Greece, bringing Greek warships to alert after Turkish military planes entered the area.

Turkey has also violated an arms embargo of Libya, leading to a confrontation in June between a French naval frigate and Turkish warships escorting a vessel suspected of smuggling weapons to Libya.

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