Türkiye Urges Allies not to Neglect Southern Flank Security Challenges including Terrorism, Mass Migration and Climate Change

20 June 2022


Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine gravely threatens security in the Black Sea region, eviscerates freedom of navigation there and accordingly has had serious economic consequences for the countries along its littoral. While Türkiye, like other NATO Allies, must contend with the fallout from Russia’s brutal war, its leaders also stress that security challenges from the south, including terrorism, cannot be neglected. 

This was a central message delivered to members of a NATO Parliamentary Assembly delegation that visited Istanbul and Adana from 14-17 June. As NATO leaders prepare to meet for a pivotal Summit in Madrid at the end of June, Türkiye’s Minister of National Defence, Hulusi Akar told members of the Assembly’s Sub-Committee on NATO Partnerships and its Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group (GSM) that Allies need to reaffirm a 360 degree perspective of the broad range of threats that they confront so that NATO remains fit for purpose. A successful fight against terrorism, he added, demands cohesion, solidarity and unity. 

Tacan İldem, Turkey’s former Ambassador to NATO and a member of the independent group of experts on NATO 2030, echoed these priorities. The group’s recommendations focus on three main lines of effort: strengthening NATO politically, making it stronger militarily and adopting a more global approach. 
Several Turkish interlocutors referred to their country’s security concerns in connection with Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bids. As diplomatic efforts, including those led by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg continued, visiting NATO Parliamentarians expressed hope that these would succeed in removing the obstacles for Finland and Sweden’s accession processes, stressing that their membership would strengthen the Alliance.

The visit also offered insights into Türkiye’s role and contribution in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine. Minister Akar stressed Türkiye’s firm support for Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders and military assistance. Türkiye had also increased its contribution to NATO’s collective defence arrangements through a higher readiness of its forces assigned to the NATO Response Force, contributions to air policing and surveillance, and support to NATO’s new battlegroups on the Eastern flank. At the same time, he stressed the delicate security balance in the Black Sea region and the importance of avoiding escalation.  

The government of Türkiye is deeply concerned about the collapse of Ukrainian and Russian grain and fertiliser exports through the Black Sea. Professor Cagri Erhan, President of Altınbaş University, told the delegation that the war is driving up global food and commodity prices and warned that famine conditions in Africa could unleash new waves of migration which would prove highly destabilising. The government is in talks with authorities from both countries to establish humanitarian corridors to move these commodities to global markets. These corridors, however, remain heavily mined and diplomatic obstacles continue to impede progress in the talks. 

In Istanbul, GSM Rapporteur Luca Frusone (Italy) presented the first draft of his report, Migration Challenges and the MENA Region, which explores the implications of Russia’s war, climate change and poor governance on migration from the south. The discussion generated parliamentary inputs for the final draft which will be presented for adoption at the GSM’s autumn seminar. 

Türkiye ratified the Paris agreement in October 2021 and is committed to taking on climate change which, Fatih Dönmez, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, suggested has exacerbated security conditions in the south. He said that even if carbon fuels remain essential over the medium term, efforts to diversify energy sources and incorporate renewables are essential. He added that governments should also consider energy efficiency as a “primary fuel” that will enhance energy security while lowering CO2 emissions. Minister Dönmez outlined his government’s plans to reduce these emissions by 43 million tons over the next decade, an effort that would save Türkiye USD 30.2 billion at 2017 prices, he added.

The delegation visit concluded with meetings at the country’s largest temporary accommodation centre outside Adana. Türkiye hosts roughly 4 million Syrian refugees and seeks to foster their social and economic integration. The parliamentarians learned that while most Syrians who have sought refuge in Türkiye reside in cities, some of the most vulnerable have remained in government-provided shelters where the Turkish state and a range of NGO’s provide vitally needed social, medical and educational support. The parliamentarians met with camp staff and residents at the centre and participated in a graduation ceremony for students studying there.

In Istanbul, the Assembly delegation also visited the headquarters of NATO Rapid Deployable Corps-Türkiye, NATO Maritime Security Centre of Excellence and the BAYKAR Technology Defence Company, whose Bayraktar TB2 drones constitute a vital asset of the Ukrainian defence effort.

The delegation was led by Marcos Perestrello De Vasconcellos (Portugal), Chair of the Sub-Committee on NATO Partnerships, Fernando Gutierrez (Spain) and Manousos Konstantinos Voloudakis (Greece), Vice Chairs of the Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group. Osman Askin BAK (Turkey), the head of the Turkish delegation to the NATO PA served as host to the delegation over the four-day visit to Istanbul and Adana.

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