Turkey had pressured NATO allies into softening their official reaction to the ‘forced landing‘ of a passenger plane by Belarus authorities, Reuters reported on May 28, citing two diplomats familiar with the matter.
The incident, which took place on May 23, saw the emergency landing of Ryanair Flight 4978 in Minsk. Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich, who was aboard the flight, was detained by his country’s authorities.
In a statement, the NATO’s 30 members condemning what they called the forced landing of a Ryanair flight by Belarus with a cautious tone.
Two diplomats told Reuters that Turkey insisted that any mention of support for more Western sanctions on Belarus, calls for the release of political prisoners there or threats regarding the NATO’s cooperation with the country should be removed from the statement.
The diplomats speculated that Ankara might be trying to preserve ties with Moscow, Belarus’ closest ally. According to the diplomats, another possibility may be Ankara’s keenness to welcome Russian tourists this summer following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Turkey’s pressure to soften the statement upset a number of NATO members, particularly Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, who wanted a tougher wording.
This stand by Turkey may have been in fact the result of Ankara’s discontent with key NATO allies, namely the US and France. Furthermore, Turkey may be trying to keep Minsk away from recognizing Crimea as a Russian territory, which is of special interest for Ankara.
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