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Divided on Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria, NATO defence ministers meet

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Divided on Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria, NATO defence ministers meet

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Photo: AFP

Defence ministers from NATO’s 29 alliance members gather in Brussels today for a two-day meeting.

NATO member Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria is likely to dominate discussions. The offensive has exposed deep divisions within the alliance—every NATO member disapproves of the assault. Compounding matters, Turkey yesterday announced an agreement delineating the northern Syrian safe zone with Russia—NATO’s historical adversary.

That agreement could complicate a proposal expected to be introduced today by German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to establish a NATO-led “international safe zone” in Syria. The proposal is unlikely to gain much traction, primarily because alliance members will be reluctant to contribute personnel and equipment to an operation that many will see as needless considering Turkey and Russia’s deal.

NATO’s lack of agreement on Syria could have immediate and long-term consequences for the alliance. In the short-term, the lack of unity could complicate efforts at cooperation on other issues—most notably the defence of shipping lanes in the Gulf.

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In the long-term, Turkey’s deal with Russia, which has effectively circumvented NATO, could set a precedent for other members to move away from the alliance to resolve issues and address their security concerns.

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