Turkey backs down on threat to block Nato plans for Baltics and Poland

Turkey has backed down from a threat to block Nato defence plans for the Baltics but remains deeply at odds with the rest of the alliance over its attack on Kurdish forces in Syria and its purchase of a Russian missile system.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, went into the Nato summit in London warning that he would veto plans to bolster forces in Poland and the Baltics unless the alliance designated  the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as terrorists. 

While Western leaders were alarmed that Turkish opposition could derail efforts to deter Russia in eastern Europe, they said there was no chance of siding with Turkey against the forces who spearheaded the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

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Mr Erdoğan dropped the demand on Wednesday even though there was no discussion of the YPG militia, said Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of Nato. It was not clear why Turkey reversed course but the move came as Mr Erdoğan held an unscheduled meeting with Donald Trump. 

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, led the criticism of Turkey at the Nato summit, saying on Tuesday that there was no “possible consensus” with Turkey on the question of which groups should be considered terrorists. 

Emmanuel Macron led criticism of Turkey at the summitCredit:
 LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images

“I’m sorry to say, we don’t have the same definition of terrorism around the table,” Mr Macron said a day earlier.

“When I look at Turkey they are fighting against those who fought with us shoulder to shoulder against Islamic State and sometimes they work with Isil proxies.”

Mr Trump was much warmer about Turkey than his French counterpart, saying he had “a very good meeting” with Mr Erdoğan. He said he gave “a lot of credit” to Turkey for a ceasefire between Turkish and Kurdish forces in northeast Syria. 

Mr Trump has repeatedly claimed the ceasefire has “been holding very nicely” when in reality there is daily bloodshed between the two sides in fighting along the border. 

“Turkey has been asking for something pretty basic,” said Fahrettin Altun, a spokesman for Mr  Erdoğan.

“Our allies must support us in our fight against terror groups just as we support their security by being a top contributor to Nato, handling the refugee crisis, and pursuing [Isil].”

Turkey has also angered Western allies by purchasing the S400 missile defence system from Russia. The US responded by kicking Turkey out of the F-35 fighter jet programme and Congress has pushed Mr Trump to impose sanctions.