NATO leaders meet in London for anniversary summit amid discord

LONDON, Helen Maguire (dpa)- US President Donald Trump and his 28 NATO counterparts are gathering in London on Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the defence alliance, but their summit has been overshadowed by disputes about NATO's purpose and strategic direction.
The two-day summit will trigger a "reflection process" aimed at strengthening political cooperation within NATO, according to German government sources. This is broadly in line with a proposal by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to address problems within the alliance.

Recent events in north-eastern Syria prompted soul-searching, with French President Emmanuel Macron unleashing a storm of controversy by remarking on the "brain death" of NATO. Others, notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel, distanced themselves from his comments.
In October, the United States pulled troops out of north-eastern Syria, without consulting NATO allies. This paved the way for Turkey - also a NATO member - to attack Western-allied Kurdish militia who had helped defeat Islamic State in the region.
Ankara considers the Kurdish fighters to be associated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a terrorist organization active within Turkey.
Several other issues have strained the trans-Atlantic alliance, notably Trump's persistent calls on other countries - especially Germany - to increase defence spending, while questioning the value of the alliance and its iron-clad mutual defence clause.
Last week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg unveiled new figures showing that nine allies were now reaching NATO's defence spending goal of 2 per cent of gross domestic product, while European allies and Canada are due to increase expenditure by 130 billion dollars during Trump's presidency.
Meanwhile, Turkey has long been a difficult partner, choosing among other things to buy Russian missile defence technology instead of Washington's NATO-compatible equipment.
On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit back at Macron over his recent remarks, accusing the French president of being "brain dead."
Tuesday's events will start with a breakfast meeting between Trump and Stoltenberg. Later in the day, the US president is also holding talks with Macron.
On the sidelines, a meeting to discuss Syria will take place between Macron, Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Erdogan.
On Tuesday evening, the 29 NATO leaders are to attend a reception with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, followed by a visit to 10 Downing Street, Johnson's official residence.
The leaders' formal talks don't begin until Wednesday, when they are due to hold a three-hour meeting in a golf resort north of London. They have a list of around 50 decisions to formalize, adapting NATO to current and future threats.

Tuesday, December 3rd 2019
Helen Maguire (dpa)

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