Turkish envoy slams op-ed calling for NATO dismissal

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON (AA) – Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. Serdar Kilic responded on Sunday to an op-ed piece that aimed to undermine the Turkish contributions to the NATO alliance.

The Wall Street Journal's piece penned by Bernard-Henri Levy, a French media personality and intellectual, argued that NATO should "give Turkey the boot."

The Turkish envoy criticized Levy for falsely claiming the unreliability of Turkey as a NATO ally and ignoring the country's history of contributions to the strategic organization.

"Turkey has been a proud and indispensable ally for over 60 years: as a front-line combatant against ISIS [Daesh] and other religious extremists, guardian of NATO’s southern flank and home to the alliance’s second-largest armed forces," Kilic said.

"Mr. Levy accuses Turkey of spreading Islamist extremism and fomenting violence in Syria, but the opposite is true," he wrote.

Kilic said that Turkey provided a safe haven for nearly 4 million Syrians fleeing the war, where they "live free from terror and have access to homes, schools and health-care facilities established by our government."

Levy's claim that Turkey was an "illiberal state" was also retorted by Kilic who said the Turkish elections in June were democratic and monitored by the international community.

"The numbers tell the story: An amazing 86.2% of eligible voters went to the polls to cast their votes in an election that was the most monitored by international observers in recent history," Kilic added.

The voter turnout in Turkey was among the highest in the world. In contrast, the voter turnouts in France, the U.S., and the U.K. was much lower, with all three countries being under 70 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.

Highlighting the geopolitical importance of Turkey, Kilic said the country ensured a global security at a time of unprecedented challenges facing the alliance.

"Turkey’s Incirlik air base also hosts a crucial staging ground for the international coalition to defeat ISIS. Located 60 miles [96 kilometers] from the Syrian border, the base’s proximity to the front lines allows coalition strike missions to stay in the air longer without refueling and to react more quickly.

"That saves American and coalition lives. Incirlik is playing a vital role in staging operations that have put our enemies on the run," Kilic added.

"We stand by our NATO allies during this challenging time and proudly stand on guard at the front lines to face future threats to our collective security, and expect nothing less from our allies," Kilic said.

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