The NATO alliance cannot "make it" without its longtime member Turkey, the Netherlands' prime minister said Wednesday.
Taking lawmakers' questions in parliament on Turkey's anti-terror operation in northeastern Syria — launched last week — Mark Rutte said the claim that NATO would be better without Turkey is not a "smart" claim.
"Turkey is one of the strongest NATO members. I do not think that NATO can make it without Turkey geopolitically or strategically," he stressed.
A member of the bloc since 1952, Turkey boasts NATO's second-largest army, after the United States.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring, the third in a series of cross-border anti-terror operations in northern Syria targeting terrorists affiliated with Daesh and the PKK's Syrian offshoot the People's Protection Units (YPG), on October 9.
The operation, conducted in line with the country's right to self-defense borne out of international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions, aims to establish a terror-free safe zone for Syrians return in the area east of the Euphrates River controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by YPG terrorists.
The PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union — has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years, resulting in the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
Turkey has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates in northern Syria, pledging military action to prevent the formation of a "terrorist corridor" there.
Since 2016, Turkey's Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northwestern Syria have liberated the region from YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists, making it possible for nearly 400,000 Syrians who fled the violence to return home.