Missile approval left till after key US visit

This file photo shows Turkish PM Erdoğan (L) and US President Obama. AA photo

This file photo shows Turkish PM Erdoğan (L) and US President Obama. AA photo

Turkey will wait to implement a deal to site a NATO radar system on its soil until after the prime minister’s return from UN General Assembly meetings this week

Rebuffing Washington’s demands for speedy approval, the Turkish government has decided to wait until after this week’s U.N. General Assembly meetings to complete the procedures necessary to station a NATO radar system on Turkish soil.

The memorandum of understanding signed last week by Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Francis J. Ricciardone has not been brought to the agenda of the Cabinet to complete the official procedures needed for it to enter into force, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

Since the early warning radar system is part of a NATO agreement, Cabinet approval suffices for its implementation rather than a parliamentary vote. The process will thus have to wait until Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s return from the United States, where he will hold key talks with U.S. President Barack Obama.

During his visit to the United States, Erdoğan will be accompanied by the General Staff’s second in command, Hulusi Akar, as well as EU Minister Egemen Bağış, Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar and other deputies and officials, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Before his departure late Monday, Erdoğan addressed reports in the Turkish media that the NATO defense program would not protect all of Turkey. “These are disinformation,” he said, adding that such reports aim to create concerns among the citizenry.

“What will be deployed is a radar system and not missiles. If needed, we would consider the deployment of missiles as well. But this is not on our agenda for the moment,” Erdoğan said.

The agreement envisions the deployment of a U.S. AN/TPY-2 (X-band) early warning radar system at a military installation at Kürecik in the Central Anatolian province of Malatya as part of the NATO missile-defense project. Obama and Erdoğan will likely discuss the fate of the agreement, which has been described by anonymous U.S. officials as the most strategic deal between the two allies in the last 15 to 20 years.

A swift approval of the deal is needed to carry out the technical phases of the radar system’s deployment before the end of this year, as suggested by the U.S. Department of Defense. U.S. warships carrying anti-ballistic missiles are expected to take up position in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in the upcoming months, U.S. media outlets have reported.

As part of the project, missile shield interceptors and their launching system will be deployed in Romanian and Polish territory, in 2015 and 2018, respectively.

Iran will be informed

Senior Turkish officials who are planning to visit Tehran in the coming weeks will seek to diffuse growing Iranian concerns about the deployment of the radar system on Turkish soil. Hakan Fidan, chief of the National Intelligence Organization, or MİT, is expected to be the first visitor, followed by Erdoğan.

Sources said the precise plan would be decided following Erdoğan’s meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week in New York. Concerned by NATO’s recent deployment of radar and interception systems, Iran has meanwhile increased its pressure on Russia for the sale of S-300 anti-ballistic missile systems. The two countries signed a deal on the sale but Moscow has not yet begun the process.


Monday, September 19, 2011
Serkan Demirtaş
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News