NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance’s actions over the years have been "defensive and proportionate,” in line with international commitments.
Addressing a NATO parliamentary assembly meeting in Istanbul Monday, Stoltenberg touched on relations with Russia, the failed coup attempt in Turkey and presidential elections in the United States.
On relations with Russia, Stoltenberg said the alliance is pursuing a two-track approach of "strong defense coupled with meaningful dialogue."
"Everything NATO does is defensive, proportionate and fully in line with our international commitments. Before Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine, NATO had no plans to send troops to the Eastern part of our alliance. NATO's aim is to prevent a conflict, not to provoke a conflict. Moreover, we firmly believe and we are firmly committed to a two-track approach to Russia; strong defense, coupled with meaningful dialogue."
Turkey coup attempt
He described the failed July coup attempt in host Turkey as a "sober reminder" democracy and freedom cannot be taken for granted and must be "vigorously defended."
"We are meeting here in Turkey four short months after the failed coup attempt," he said. "This should be a sober reminder to us all, a reminder that democracy and freedom cannot be taken for granted, they must be vigorously defended. In September,… I met members of the parliament from all major political parties. They rushed to the parliament on the night of the coup attempt and stood together in defense of their democratic institutions. It made a lasting impression on me and I want to salute them today for their courage and their dedication to democracy."
Europe, US partnership
Stoltenberg said he is looking forward to working with the incoming U.S. administration of President-elect Donald Trump, adding that “better burden sharing” will further strengthen the Trans-Atlantic bond.
"The partnership between Europe and the United States has been rock solid for almost 70 years. A partnership that has always received bipartisan support in the United States. Better burden sharing will make the Trans-Atlantic bond even stronger," he said.
Addressing the meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara needs the support of the world in the fight against terror, but he accused particularly the European Union and the United States of being ambivalent concerning such groups.
Erdogan said that without Turkey to act as a buffer between "terror organizations" and the rest of the world, "terrorists will set fire to the whole world and turn it into a bloodbath."
"Turkey is a veritable barrier between terror organizations and the rest of the world, especially Europe. If we fail in this fight [against terrorism], if this barrier is demolished, terrorists will set fire to the whole world and turn it into a bloodbath," he said.
Erdogan called on the United States and other nations to reassess his country's proposal for the creation of a no-fly zone in northern Syria.
"Let's announce a safe-zone, which will be cleared of the terrorists there [in Syria]. Let's [as Turkey] train and equip [local forces]. And there, we can undertake the [re-]construction of especially the residential areas, if you support us financially. Three: let's announce a no-fly zone."
Erdogan again criticized the allies' reliance on Syrian Kurdish fighters to battle the Islamic State group. Turkey considers the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters an extension of outlawed Kurdish militants in Turkey.