By Ilkay Guder
NATO members have not attempted to put pressure on Turkey in the aftermath of Sunday’s constitutional referendum, Defense Minister Fikri Isik said Friday.
In wake of the vote to move Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential system, some Western commentators have called for NATO leaders to remain true to the alliance’s founding democratic principles.
The day after the vote, an editorial in The New York Times newspaper referred to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and said: “NATO countries should do whatever they can to mitigate Mr. Erdogan’s autocratic tendencies while encouraging the proponents of democracy in Turkey.”
However, Isik denied that Turkey’s allies had made such an approach.
“There is no such a situation in NATO,” he said during an Ankara news conference. “NATO also does not have such an intention.”
Isik described such a call as a “perception operation”. “We need to be careful about this,” he added.
Turning to Syria and his meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis last week, Isik said Turkey’s priority remained to root out Daesh and reiterated opposition to using the PKK/PYD in any operation to liberate Raqqah, Daesh’s de facto capital.
“I discussed it very clearly with my counterpart,” he said. “They stated that they know Turkey’s sensibilities… Of course, we can only see the reflection of this meeting in the field.”
The Washington meeting also addressed the presence of PKK/PYD -- the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, a terrorist group that has waged war against Turkey for more than 30 years -- in Manbij.
The northern city, which lies 30 kilometers (19 miles) to the west of the River Euphrates, is currently occupied by PKK/PYD. The U.S. has previously called on the group to abandon its positions west of the Euphrates.
“We wait for the U.S. to take its promise on Manbij as soon as possible,” Isik said, accusing the Obama administration of reneging on its pledge.