Nato to address Turkey’s shield concerns at Lisbon Summit

November 18, 2010

Nato’s summit in Lisbon this week is likely to address Turkey’s concerns about losing ties with Iran and will avoid naming Tehran as a potential threat necessitating the deployment of a missile shield for Europe, a Turkish daily said.

Turkey, the potential host of a shield against ballistic missiles, has repeatedly said that it was fully committed to Nato, but rejected singling out Tehran, against whom the shield seemed to be directed, as a primary threat in the final communiqué of the Lisbon summit on November 19-20.

Ankara has reportedly told Nato officials that using an expression like “eliminating possible threats” would be more appropriate than citing a particular country’s name.

However, Turkey did mind US officials continuing to label publicly Iran a threat against the Euro-Atlantic alliance and that the missile system was against certain countries possessing ballistic missiles including Iran, Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported on Tuesday.

US officials have openly and on several occasions named Iran as a threat, but Ankara is adamant that no Nato document on the issue should include a reference to Tehran. “What matters for Ankara is Nato documents,” Turkish diplomatic sources told the daily “Intervening in other countries’ explanations on the issue is out of the question for Ankara”

Several Turkish activists have opposed the deployment of a shield against ballistic missiles, saying that they did not to want to be recast in the role of a Nato front-line state, a role they assumed during the Cold War. They also said that the shield would in fact protect Israel, the only nuclear country in the region, and that they resented being used by Western countries to promote their policies, even though Ankara disagreed with them.

Ankara’s official stance did not seem to be openly affected by analyses in the last few months that the US-backed missile shield plans will test Turkey’s conflicting orientations towards, forcing it to find a way to satisfy Nato allies without alienating new partners to the East.

According to the daily, Ankara is keen on preserving its growing ties with neighbours, including Iran, as part of a decade-old proactive engagement in a “zero-problem” policy with the wider Middle East and post-Soviet countries.

At the same time, Ankara has often insisted that it remains a loyal Nato member and respected its security decisions.

“Contrary to what has been widely perceived in the public opinion, Turkey is not against any interference in the event of an open threat from Iran. Every threat should be resisted,” Turkish diplomatic sources told Today’s Zaman. “But if the goal is resisting threats that may emerge in the future, why should we cite the names of some countries claiming deterrence as a motive?”

Classifying Iran as a threat may also sour the political atmosphere at a time when the US and European countries are considering a new round of talks with Tehran on its contentious nuclear programme, the paper said.

The daily said that, days ahead of the Lisbon summit, US officials have now found “reasonable” Turkey’s demand that a final declaration to be adopted at the end of the summit should avoid citing Iran as a threat.

The decision regarding the controversial missile defense system is expected to be made this week at the summit of the 28-member alliance.

Turkey will be represented at the summit by President Abdullah Gül, Foreign Minister Davutoğlu and Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül.

According to the paper, Turkish technical bureaucrats and military officers have been working on the technical details of the planned system, including the location of installations known as X-Band radars in preparation for an eventual decision for hosting such installations as part of the planned system.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that among Turkey’s sensitivities on the missile deployment is about who would have command and who would push the button.

“Of course, the main center for this issue is Nato; any step will be taken within the framework of Nato,” Erdoğan told reporters at a press conference in Istanbul. “And of course, the matter concerns who will be given the command of this action. If something that concerns our entire territory is considered, then it [the command] should be given to us,” Erdoğan said. “Otherwise, it is not possible to accept such a thing,” he added.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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