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The Netherlands’ outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte was in Turkey on Friday, seeking support from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the Dutch official’s bid for the position of NATO secretary general.

Incumbent NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister who has been NATO’s top civilian official since 2014, is nearing the end of his term. His mandate had been extended several times as the alliance needed to keep a steady hand at the helm after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.


NATO members Turkey and Hungary had earlier expressed reservations about Rutte’s candidacy. During his friday visit, Rutte spoke at a joint news conference with Erdogan.


Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, center, looks up at Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte and French President Emmanuel Macron during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Wednesday, April 17, 2024. European leaders’ discussions at a summit in Brussels were set to focus on the bloc’s competitiveness in the face of increased competition from the United States and China. Tensions in the Middle East and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine decided otherwise, and the 27 leaders will dedicate Wednesday evening talks to foreign affairs. (AP Photo/Omar Havana)

The southern wing of NATO “needs Turkey and its leadership,” Rutte said, describing Ankara as a very influential actor in the region and a geopolitical power.

Erdogan made no commitments on who Turkey would support or say what Ankara’s position was.

“No one should have any doubt that we will make our decision within the framework of strategic wisdom and equity,” Erdogan said.

He added that an ideal candidate for the post of NATO chief would “ensure solidarity within the alliance and order among the allies” and also “prioritize the preservation of NATO’s essential position in ensuring Euro-Atlantic security.”

However, at the end of the news conference, Erdogan wished Rutte success and smiled at him. The exchange also drew a smile from Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan.


NATO officials and envoys want the nomination for Stoltenberg’s successor wrapped up by the end of April, before competition for top European Union jobs begins in earnest around the June 6-9 elections. They are also keen to avoid having the potentially divisive issue mar the alliance’s 75th anniversary summit in Washington in July.

NATO chiefs are responsible for chairing meetings and guiding sometimes delicate consultations among member countries. They also are tasked with speaking on behalf of all member nations with one voice.

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