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NATO defence commitment 'unconditional': Stoltenberg
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Oct 25, 2016

Turkish officers appeal Greek asylum rejection
Athens (AFP) Oct 25, 2016 - Turkish military officers who fled to Greece following the failed July coup in their country have appealed against the rejection of their asylum claims, their lawyer said Tuesday.

Stravroula Tomara told AFP she had filed appeals for six of the eight officers in question: four whose initial asylum requests had been rejected, and two whose cases had been suspended.

Tomara added that the appeal for a seventh officer had already been filed and a hearing scheduled for November 2.

An eighth officer is still waiting for a decision on his initial asylum claim, she said.

"What is absurd is that the asylum service's decisions refer to Turkey's extradition request, when this does not actually exist legally," she said.

Tomara also took issue with the continued detention of her eight clients.

The two Turkish commanders, four captains and two sergeants requested asylum in Greece after landing a military helicopter in the northern city of Alexandroupoli shortly after the attempted government takeover in mid-July.

Ankara has asked Athens to extradite them all to face trial in Turkey for their alleged role in the coup attempt and for their alleged attempted assassination of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But Greek extradition authorities in August rejected the request saying insufficient evidence had been presented, according to a legal source.

Turkey's failure so far to provide additional information has kept the asylum process on hold, the source added.

When their initial asylum requests were rejected, the eight officers, who say they fled to Greece to save their lives, claimed to be the victims of "bilateral politics".

They say they would not receive a fair trial in Turkey, where the authorities have detained thousands of people over the coup, including top generals.

Their case is awkward for Greece, which is working with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants to its shores.

NATO's commitment to defend all allies against any threat is "unconditional" and irrespective of whether they pay their dues, alliance head Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday.

Asked his view of remarks by US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump that, should he win, US commitment would depend on members keeping up with their contributions, Stoltenberg stressed first he did not want to get drawn into the US election campaign.

But he added, "I have clearly stated that what matters for NATO is that we don't say that if you don't pay, we don't protect you," he told a press briefing at NATO HQ in Brussels ahead of a two-day alliance defence ministers meeting.

Stoltenberg said NATO leaders decided in 2014 to increase defence spending to counter a more assertive Russia and that the 28 alliance members had reversed years of defence cuts and that their spending had been increasing since 2015.

"This was not something caused by the US election," he said.

As for NATO's 'all for one, one for all' defence commitment enshrined in Article 5 of the alliance's founding treaty, he said this could not be subject to any conditions if it was to be an effective deterrence to aggression and a reassurance to allies -- including the United States.

"I would like to underline that NATO security guarantees are not conditioned, they are absolute and unconditional," he said.

Stoltenberg recalled that the only time Article 5 had been invoked was after the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States and that NATO's largest ever military operation in Afghanistan was fought on this basis to protect America.

The United States is the largest military power in NATO and accounts for some two-thirds of the alliance's combined defence spending.

Washington has pressed the allies to spend more for years and they finally agreed in 2014, largely in response to Russian intervention in Ukraine, to allocate the equivalent of two percent of GDP to defence in coming years.

Trump said in July that in the event of a Russian attack on the Baltics, NATO's newest members, Washington might assess whether those nations "have fulfilled their obligations to us" before deciding to come to their rescue.

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