By Diyar Guldogan
ANKARA (AA) - Amid the current Turkish-led counter-terrorist operation in Syria, Turkey has genuine security concerns, NATO’s chief said Wednesday.
"Turkey has some legitimate security concerns. No other NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks, but we expect Turkey to respond in a proportionate and measured way," Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels, according to a NATO statement.
"Turkey has briefed NATO allies on their Operation Olive Branch, and I expect Turkey to continue to brief NATO allies on the operation in northern Syria," he added, referring to the operation launched on Jan. 20 with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to clear PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.
Addressing the challenges in northern Syria, Stoltenberg said there were contacts between Turkey and the U.S. but that NATO is not "present on the ground."
Stoltenberg's remarks came ahead of a two-day NATO defense ministers meeting starting today at NATO headquarters to prepare for a summit in July.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Turkish National Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli will meet U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis late Wednesday to discuss the latest developments in the region, particularly Syria and the ongoing operation.
Stoltenberg said on Wednesday the ministers will discuss the nuclear planning group, the modernization of NATO’s command structure, and defense spending and burden-sharing among allies.
"I expect we will agree to establish two new commands. One for the Atlantic. And a support command for military mobility within Europe. As well as a new cyber operations center," he added.
Stoltenberg said they will focus on Thursday on the progress in implementing NATO'S deterrence and defense posture, as well as NATO’s role in projecting stability and the fight against terrorism.
According to the Turkish General Staff, Operation Olive Branch aims to establish security and stability along Turkey's borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from terrorist cruelty and oppression.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.