© AFP/File | A demonstrator holds a flag picturing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan among demonstraters waving Turkish national flags and shout slogans on August 7, 2016 in Istanbul during a rally against failed military coup on July 15
ISTANBUL (AFP) – NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday hailed the Turkish people’s courage in defeating the July 15 putsch, which he called an “attack on democracy”, saying a strong Turkey was “essential” for European and regional security.”Any attack on democracy, in any of our countries, is an attack on the very foundation of our alliance,” he said in a statement after meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the capital Ankara.
“A strong and democratic Turkey is essential for the stability and security of Europe and the region,” he said.
The NATO head was one of the top Western officials to visit Turkey in the wake of the attempted coup aimed at bringing down the Turkish government.
Erdogan has blamed the military action on a rouge group within the army loyal to US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has denied the charges from his compound in Pennsylvania.
The Turkish strongman has however criticised what he said was a lack of Western support for his government after the bloody coup attempt, accusing Europe of backing coup plotters who sought his ouster.
Erdogan’s massive crackdown on suspects in the wake of the botched coup has raised alarm bells in Europe, which has warned Ankara not to compromise on democratic norms.
NATO has condemned the coup in solidarity with the Turkish government but remained cautious on the purge of tens of thousands of people in the putsch’s aftermath.
On Friday, Stoltenberg is due to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, as well as the country’s defence and foreign ministers.
Tags: coup attempt was an attack on democracy, Erdogan, Fethullah Gulen, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO, purge of tens of thousands of people in the putsch's aftermath, Turkey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim