Last updated: 28 June, 2012

NATO vows no action on Syria before all political solutions have been attemped

A top NATO general on Thursday said the alliance would take no military action in either Syria or Iran until all political means to find a solution were exhausted.

The comment by General Knud Bartels, chairman of NATO’s Military Committee, comes almost a week after Syria downed a military jet belonging to alliance member Turkey.

Reports said Thursday Ankara had sent missile batteries, tanks and troops to the border with Syria as a “security corridor.”

“No military actions by NATO will be taken, neither in Syria or Iran, until all political means to achieve a political solution are used,” General Bartels told reporters in Estonia’s capital Tallinn.

“And it is up to all 28 member states of NATO to decide what the steps by NATO will be,” Bartels said, in response to a question about the downed Turkish aircraft.

“I’m very happy to see at the moment that there seems to be in the coming days an opening of dialogue by the United Nations to find a political solution with Syria,” Bartels added.

“The shooting down of a Turkish plane … without any warning has highlighted the crisis again,” he noted.

Turning to Russia, Bartels said he believed in a strategic partnership between NATO and Moscow.

“I am a convinced believer of dialogue and Russia is a strategic partner of NATO,” Bartels said. “NATO in no way wants to threaten Russia, and NATO’s ballistic defence system is also not meant in any way to threaten Russia,” he stressed.

The NATO general added he was optimistic authorities in Afghanistan will manage to cope in the post-NATO mission era.

With the exit of NATO combat troops on track for 2014, Afghan forces are set to assume responsibility for security from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“The bottom line is our support to the Afghanistan government and security forces will continue in other ways also in the future but it will be a completely different operation from what it is now,” Bartels said.

He arrived on a two-day visit to Estonia on Wednesday for talks with political and military leaders in the ex-Soviet Baltic republic of 1.3 million which joined the EU and NATO in 2004.