NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg launches the NATO Defence Ministers Council Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on February 14, 2018. Photo: John Thys | AFP
BRUSSELS, Belgium — Defense ministers for NATO member countries commanding more than 8.4 million active troops are convening on Thursday at its headquarters. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said prior to the meetings that the security situations in Iraq and Syria would be discussed.
"I see no role for NATO to play there [in Afrin]. But the situation is surely worrying and it is a part of the talks today to take place here,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told Rudaw’s Zinar Shino ahead of the meetings.
Germany halted talks on upgrading Turkey’s German-made Leopard tanks after they were seen participating in the assault.
NATO member Turkey has been conducting attacks in Afrin since January 20. NATO is a member of the anti-ISIS coalition, but does not have NATO forces on the ground in Syria.
“Turkey has some legitimate security concerns. No NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey, but we expect Turkey to respond in a propionate way,” said Stoltenberg.
The NATO head said Turkey has briefed NATO allies, including the United States, about the operation and NATO expects that to continue.
NATO is seen to be in a position to mediate with leaders from Ankara.
Stoltenberg said the meetings will focus on three issues: effective reinforcement for troop mobility, NATO’s role in the US-led international anti-ISIS coalition, and the security challenges in NATO’s southern areas including the Middle East and North Africa.
“We will consider additional steps we can take, including in Iraq,” he said.
After the meetings, Stoltenberg briefed reporters on their training mission in Iraq.
NATO now needs "to enable local forces, and authorities to be fully in charge and stabilize the country."
"It's dangerous to leave Iraq too early because withdrawing forces may end up in having to return for combat operations," he added.