High-level NATO officials met Turkish policy-makers and opinion leaders to discuss current issues on NATO’s agenda at the annual Antalya International Conference for Security and Cooperation on 14 and 15 December. Taking place a few days after NATO foreign ministers agreed to deploy Patriot missiles to Turkey, the event also provided an opportunity to reaffirm the spirit of Alliance solidarity.
In a message sent to the conference NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh underlined what a significant year this has been for Turkey and NATO:
“In February, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of your country’s membership of the Alliance. And just last week, the Allies agreed to deploy Patriot missiles to augment Turkey’s air defence capabilities. This will help to defend your population and territory, deter any possible threats, and contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along NATO’s south-eastern border. Our decision is a clear and concrete demonstration of the value of the Alliance for our collective security, and for your security. And it shows that NATO stands with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity."
This message was echoed at the conference by NATO and Turkish officials. "This decision is important as a demonstration of Alliance solidarity and unity in practical terms," said Ambassador Naci Koru, the Turkish Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Discussing NATO’s current agenda
The Antalya Conference offered an opportunity to discuss key topics on NATO’s current agenda, including Afghanistan, partnerships and “smart defence” (an initiative aimed at pooling and sharing capabilities, setting priorities and coordinating efforts better).
NATO and Turkish officials reiterated their commitment to Afghanistan throughout the transition process and post-2014. “As Afghanistan continues its historic steps towards lasting peace and stability, the engagement of the international community in Afghanistan should not lose its momentum,” explained Deputy Minister Koru.
Ambassador Grabar highlighted the progress achieved in Afghanistan: “We see levels of health care, education, and economic development that were unthinkable only ten years ago.”
Minister Koru described NATO’s partnership relations as a “manifestation of the Alliance’s soft power”. Given the current security environment, “partnerships in 2012 are in NATO’s DNA,” said Ambassador Jesper Vahr, Director of the Private Office of the Secretary General.
In the post-Chicago Summit agenda, capability development stands out as another priority for the Allies. “The Alliance is striving to achieve NATO Forces 2020 in innovative ways, and these include Smart Defence and the Connected Forces Initiative,” said Ambassador Hüseyin Diriöz, Assistant Secretary General for Defence Planning and Policy.
Turkey, like all Allies, plays an important part in this effort: “Turkey is poised to contribute more to multilateral development of capabilities, as its industrial potential and business links with other NATO countries expand,” said Ambassador Diriöz.
Engaging the security community
The Antalya International Conference for Security and Cooperation has been a highlight of the public debate on international security in Turkey for nearly 20 years. It is organized by the Atlantic Treaty Association of Turkey, which takes the lead in maintaining a close-knit community of experts and politicians, who strive to inform the wider public about NATO’s importance for NATO and Turkey’s strong role within the Alliance.
Ambassador Grabar met with the young leaders who form the Turkish chapter of the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association. “It is crucial to the success of NATO that the next generation of leaders generate a new debate on security matters,” she said.