For NATO, as an alliance, it is extremely important to maintain the integrity of its collective defense systems and make sure that they remain fully operational, NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana told an online briefing for Romanian journalists held today from Brussels, following Turkey's October 16 testing of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system considered incompatible with NATO defense systems.
"During his recent visit to Ankara, Secretary-General Stoltenberg mentioned the S-400 subject. It is a matter of concern for us, as an alliance, and from the standpoint of sensitive, major collective defense systems, it is important that we keep the integrity of our systems and make sure that they remain fully operational, including as regards the protection of Turkey, a very important ally for which the Alliance has a dedicated defense and deterrence plan which is also very important for the Turkish allies, this is not just a one-way approach," said Mircea Geoana.
As for the broader tensions between Turkey and certain NATO allies, Geoana acknowledged that this is a delicate moment, but expressed his conviction that the values that unite the member states are stronger than these moments of "public emotion".
"We've experienced more tense moments throughout our history, starting with the Suez Crisis and continuing with the Cyprus Crisis in the '70s (...), issues that are still unresolved today. An economic dimension came on top of these geopolitical elements, massive gas and energy reserves have been discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean basin, which brought forth issues such as the delimitation of exclusive maritime areas, of the continental shelves, and which were exacerbated even more between Greece and Turkey," said the NATO Deputy Secretary General.
The senior NATO official brought to mind that Turkey is also present in Syria, "trying to maintain a certain kind of balance there, including by preventing a large number of refugees and immigrants from getting to Turkey and then possibly to Europe."
There is however some "good news" from the Eastern Mediterranean, Geoana said. "The Libyan ceasefire announcement appears to have some more substantial elements," he explained, including the monitoring of the withdrawal of the foreign mercenaries mobilized in the conflict to garrisons and possibly to their countries of origin.
Geoana also renewed the condemnation of the attack on the history teacher in Paris, which prompted the French authorities to directly scrutinize a series of militant Islamic groups, subsequently triggering a battle of statements with Ankara.
Speaking about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Mircea Geoana said that "there is a new attempt to establish a ceasefire. (...) The Minsk Group, which has explicit jurisdiction within the OSCE over the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, has brokered the truce. Let's see if things stabilize a little," and firmly called on all forces, including those with a direct or indirect influence on the conflicting parties, to help defuse the situation.
"This is also a lesson, if you want. What seem to be at one point frozen conflicts, can suddenly heat up in a more complex geopolitical context and become open conflicts. I think this is a lesson and an encouragement to vigilance over the significance of these frozen conflict areas which unfortunately abound on the periphery of the former Soviet empire and which are very important for European security," Geoana said.