Boris Johnson calls for unity between Nato leaders amid escalating tensions over Syria

3 December 2019, 10:57

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left), Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left), Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Boris Johnson will call for unity between Nato leaders amid escalating tensions within the Western alliance over the conflict in Syria.

The Prime Minister will host a gathering of leaders in Britain marking the alliance's 70th anniversary.

The meeting will take place amid a bitter row between French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over Turkey's recent incursion into northern Syria.

Mr Macron infuriated Ankara when he suggested Nato was suffering from "brain death" over Turkey's incursion against the Kurds in northern Syria without warning other Nato members - a move that alarmed other allies.

The Turkish president hit back accusing Mr Macron of "a sick and shallow understanding" of terrorism, suggesting he was the one who was "brain dead".

President Donald Trump also waded into the row on Tuesday morning, accusing President Macron of being "very disrespectful."

Speaking during a breakfast meeting with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg at the US ambassador's residence, Mr Trump said: "I think that is very insulting to a lot of different forces.

"It is a very, very nasty statement. I think they have a very high unemployment rate in France. France is not doing well economically at all.

"It is a very tough statement to make when you have such difficulty in France, when you look at what is going on with the yellow vests.

"They have had a very rough year. You just can't go around making statements like that about Nato. It is very disrespectful."

Mr Johnson is expected to try to play peacemaker when he hosts the leaders, together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for talks in Downing Street ahead of the main gathering.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The PM's position is that Nato is the most enduring and successful alliance in military history and that it continues to adapt to the evolving threats that we face.

"It is the cornerstone of Euro-Atlantic security and it helps to keep a billion people safe.

"The PM will emphasise that all members must be united behind shared priorities so Nato can adapt to the challenges ahead."

The formal Nato events will begin with a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by the Queen on Tuesday evening.

The main talks will then take place on Wednesday at The Grove, a country house hotel near Watford.

The meeting is expected to consider new threats, including in the areas of cyber and space, after the alliance last month declared space one of its operational domains alongside air, land, sea and cyber.