Turkey's ambassador to Russia says NATO is in no position to dictate to Ankara which country it can build relations with.
The remarks byUmit Yardim on Thursday came amid reports that the Western alliance was seriously concerned about recent contacts between Turkish and Russian leaders.
"In no way can NATO limit our contacts with other countries... It means NATO has no right to dictate its terms and tell us who we should or should not meet and communicate with," Yardim said in Moscow.
Yardim also said Russia and Turkey had agreed to step up their contacts on Syria, where they support opposing sides in the ongoing conflict there, as well as develop their bilateral relations.
The ambassador described a Tuesday meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg as “very successful.”
He said relations between Moscow and Ankara are beneficial to the region and the world at large.
“Russia and Turkey are very important countries for the region. Our contacts affect the entire region. It will be no exaggeration to say that they are important for the whole world as well,” Yardim said.
On Wednesday, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu tried to sweet-talk Turkey into maintaining its relations with the military alliance amid reports that Ankara was angry with the West.
Turkey has been critical of the way its Western allies in NATO have reacted to the failed July 15 coup attempt.
Erdogan believes US and the European governments have failed to show enough support for Turkey in the aftermath of the botched putsch.
There have even been reports in the Turkish media of possible NATO and US intelligence involvement in the failed coup.
Turkey is NATO's second largest military power after the United States, with Lungescu trying to dispel speculations that their ties might be on the rocks.
Turkey’s NATO membership is “not in question” following the historic meeting between Erdogan and Putin, he said.
In Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu insisted that the visit to Russia had no wider agenda but did warn of the possible consequences if relations with Europe did not improve.
"Our relations with Russia are not a message to the West," Cavusoglu said, but he blasted the European Union for having "encouraged the putschists."
"If the West one day loses Turkey – whatever our relations with Russia and China – it will be their fault," he said.