Turkey's willingness to block NATO's defence plans for the Baltic states and Poland was simply Ankara's negotiating position, Lithuanian foreign minister says, adding that the leaking of information may have helped change Ankara's position.
News that Ankara might block the new defence plans sent shivers across NATO's Central European member states wary of the Russian threat. However, Ankara ultimately said it will endorse the plans following a meeting with the leaders of NATO, the Baltic states, and Poland.
The very leaking of information that Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan might block the plans at the NATO summit may have contributed to changing Ankara's position, Linkevičius told LRT RADIO on Friday.
“Reporters asked insistently, why would you harm the Baltic states, [Turkey] had to answer inconvenient questions," he said. At the same time, Baltic diplomatic efforts also contributed to the favourable outcome, who held intense talks with Turkey's foreign and defence ministers on the eve of the meeting between presidents.
“Good humour prevailed in the presidents' meeting next morning, because everything had already been solved,” according to Linkevičius.
“Some people believe that Turkey is scheming against the Baltic states – that is definitely not the case,” said the minister. “They're just very professional at defending their interests as they see them.”
The Turkish government merely wanted to use something that its NATO allies wanted – new defence plans – to get what it wanted, namely to get Kurdish organisations designated as terrorist groups. The American reprsentatives, however, said they would not move against the Kurds.
Meanwhile any talks of kicking Turkey out of NATO are irresponsible, Linkevičius believes.
“Some say irresponsibly that [Turkey] should be removed from NATO – these talks, I think, are irresponsible,” the foreign minister said, adding that Lithuania preferred a dialogue.
However, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Friday contradicted earlier reports that the Baltic states and Poland reached an agreement with Ankara.
"[Information] that Turkey made concessions during the NATO summit on [the defence plan for the Baltic states and Poland] is wrong," he told reporters, according to ELTA.
"[The Baltic plan] will under no circumstances be published until our plan is [agreed]," said the foreign minister.
Turkey is asking for NATO to approve its own defence plan, which includes designating the Kurdish groups in northern Syria as terrorist organisations.
Read more: Baltics, Poland convince Turkey not to block defence plan, Lithuanian president confirms