15:48 GMT16 April 2021
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    Despite Turkey’s recent spate of aggressive military maneuvers, NATO allies agreed on Friday to provide Ankara with an air defense package.

    As part of an agreement to defend NATO-member Turkey, the alliance has approved a plan to deploy aircraft and ships to Ankara.

    "We have agreed on a package of assurance measures for Turkey in view of the volatile situation in the region," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters.

    The package will include AWACS surveillance planes and "enhanced air policing, and increased naval presence including maritime patrol aircraft," according to Stoltenberg. Ships will also be provided by Germany and Denmark.

    When asked if the decision was about tightening control over Turkey’s haphazard management of its own airspace, Stoltenberg told Reuters: "This will give us a better situational awareness…more transparency, more predictability and that will contribute to stabilizing the situation in the region and also calm tensions."

    Last month, Turkey came under international criticism after shooting down a Russian bomber in Syrian airspace. The incident left two Russian soldiers dead and threatened to derail relations between NATO and Russia.

    Diplomats familiar with the latest decision told Reuters that the package is partly aimed at preventing similarly reckless incidents in the future. Military experts alluded to this reasoning on Thursday.

    "It’s a face-saving show of allied support for Turkey, while trying to get them to behave more intelligently," Nick Witney, a former head of the European Defense Agency told Euractiv.com.

    "We are concerned about the military build-up in the region," Stoltenberg said on Friday, adding that he hoped to incorporate air policing policies similar to those employed over the Baltics, "without incidents and accidents."

    Turkey has also come under fire for its decision to deploy hundreds of troops into northern Iraq, a move the Iraqi government views as a breach of international law.

    "The government is committed to maintain good neighborly relations, but at the same time reiterates its right to take measures to protect national sovereignty," the Iraqi government said in a statement.

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi gave Ankara 48 hours to remove its troops, but Turkey has failed to comply. The United Nations Security Council is currently reviewing a formal complaint lodged by Baghdad.


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    NATO, airborne early warning and control (AWAC) aircraft, air defense, United Nations, Haider al-Abadi, Nick Witney, Jens Stoltenberg, Iraq, Denmark, Germany, Turkey
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