NATO lawmakers review threat from Russian military activism, terrorism as Annual Session opens in Turkey

Istanbul, 19 November 2016 – Parliamentarians from NATO nations reviewed possible responses to the terrorist threat at home and abroad, as well as the global scope of Moscow’s challenge to the Alliance, at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly which opened its annual session today in Turkey.

“This is our Assembly’s first opportunity to review the outcomes of NATO’s Summit in Warsaw in July”, said NATO PA President, U.S. Congressman Michael R. Turner, who has just released a report stressing the need to strengthen NATO’s enhanced deterrence in the Baltic states and Poland. Mr Turner welcomed yesterday’s phone conversation between US President-elect Donald J. Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, noting that both had commented on the need to reduce the ongoing disparity in defence spending among Allies. “The United States has adopted a European Reassurance Initiative”, he noted, “maybe Europeans should adopt an American Reassurance Initiative”.

The head of the Turkish delegation, Osman Aşkin Bak, emphasized “the important developments regarding NATO’s role in global security” in an environment characterized by “more diverse and more dangerous challenges”, and pointed out that Turkey was in the frontline, particular in the fight against terrorism.

Mr Bak also stressed that “this meeting has special meaning for us,” by giving top officials from Turkey the chance to share their views on NATO and explain to deputies what happened four months on from the coup.

Mr Turner expressed support for Turkey in its battle with terrorism and struggle to host some three million Syrian refugees while it recovers from the faıled coup attempt. “We are holding this session here in Istanbul as another way to demonstrate our solidarity with Turkey and the Turkish people and to recognize the trauma that the coup represented”, he stressed, while also noting that “we are here in support of Turkish democracy”. “Solidarity and democracy go hand in hand. They are NATO’s shared values”.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, several senior government ministers and a plethora of security, defence and migration experts will join the legislators over four days for what is the NATO PA’s 62nd annual session.

It will also be the last time for Congressman Turner to preside over the NATO PA talks. His two-year term as President draws to a close and a vote will be held during Monday’s plenary session to appoint his successor.

In a series of resolutions, members are set to call for NATO to stand united in defence of Allies on the border with Russia, as its continued belligerence causes concern. Lawmakers will reaffirm their support for Georgia and Ukraine, and remind Allies of their pledge to step up military spending.

With Daesh under pressure in Iraq and Syria, the parliamentarians are to call for broader intelligence sharing and a toughening of border controls amid concerns that foreign fighters from the region are more likely to return to Europe as the group is squeezed in the Middle East.

NATO’s efforts to help Allies hardest-hit by the refugee wave are also on the table.

To help stem the flow and reassure regional partners, lawmakers will call for more diplomatic pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his backers in Russia and Iran.

The Assembly will also express its backing for NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, call for help to fill remaining security gaps and bolster the fight against corruption.

NATO governments will be encouraged to keep up spending on airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and make sure the technologies are compatible across the Alliance.

The NATO PA brings together members of national parliaments from the Allies as well as partner countries, observers and organisations. It is an essential link between the Alliance and member parliaments - and therefore to citizens in the Euro-Atlantic area.