A NATO summit started in Chicago, which is set to focus on the future of the 11-year Afghanistan mission of the organization, was attended by President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Sunday.
This summit has been the largest participated summit organized by NATO, with the attendance of around 60 countries along with international organizations. The two-day summit is expected to mark confirmation of a discussed NATO schedule for the withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 and the role of NATO in the country after withdrawal.
Under the effect to a large scale fiscal crisis hitting the US and European continent, contributor countries to the Afghan mission also set to agree upon a smart defense program, foreseeing an economically optimal use of resources during the mission.
Turkish officials arrived in Chicago on Saturday. On the sidelines of the conference, Gül held talks with his Afghan, Azerbaijani and Macedonian counterparts on Saturday.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed gratitude for Turkey’s role in Afghanistan. Gül stated that he would express the concerns of the Afghan government on the future of the ongoing mission to other NATO members during the conference. Afghans doubt their security forces will be able to take firm control of one of the world’s most volatile countries once foreign combat troops leave.
Meanwhile, Pakistan is in attendance at the landmark NATO summit with a last-minute invitation from the organization. NATO member countries agreed upon the vital role Pakistan would play on Afghanistan’s future. The attendance of Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari at the summit came amid discussions on a deal that would reopen the Pakistani routes to supply NATO soldiers in Afghanistan. Pakistan shut those routes in protest when US aircraft killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border in November.
Gül later met Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Gül expressed the continued support of Turkey for the NATO bid of Macedonia and all Balkan countries. A prospective NATO integration of Macedonia, having fulfilled the accession criteria since 2008, have been blocked because of Greek opposition over a naming dispute. Gül noted that Macedonia’s bid had to speed up following the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s decision in favor of the country. Last December the International Court of Justice ruled that Greece should have abided by the 1995 deal not to block Macedonian applications, and was wrong in blocking the country’s membership to NATO.
Meanwhile, Davutoğlu has received the “Macedonia Friendship Award” during a meeting organized by Macedonian diaspora in Chicago.
Gül also met Azerbaijani President Aliyev. The two leaders have expressed common stance on adding an article to NATO final declaration on “long term disputes.” Azerbaijan is connected to NATO as being a member of the organization’s Partnership for Peace program. The country is a party of an ongoing dispute with Armenia, scrutinized under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)-initiated Minsk group since 1992, due to disputed status of Nagorno-Karabakh region.