NATO official makes missile trip to Ankara

The visit of a senior NATO commander to Ankara on Tuesday for talks regarding a radar system in southeastern Turkey as part of the alliance’s missile shield project came as Iran increased its criticism of Turkey’s recent attitude toward Israel.

“Landing in Ankara, Turkey, for discussions on missile defense, Afghanistan, Libya, and NATO reform,” NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe John Stavridis said in a post on Twitter late Monday.

Adm. Stavridis held talks in Turkey after visits to Israel and Romania. Stavridis met with Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz. Although the admiral requested an appointment with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he could not meet Turkey’s premier due to Erdoğan’s busy schedule. The core of the discussions was the U.S.-led NATO missile shield project, whose early-warning radar system will be deployed in Turkey.

Ankara decided to host the radar at a military facility base near Malatya as part of NATO’s defense architecture. The discussions also included Turkey’s objections to Israel’s attempt to open a representation office at NATO headquarters, the Daily News has learned.

Turkey blocked a recent Israeli attempt to open an office at NATO headquarters when Tel Aviv submitted a request in early September.

Israel has made requests to open a representation office at NATO headquarters under NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue program that was launched in 1994 with seven Mediterranean countries.

The Iranian supreme leader’s top advisor for military affairs, Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim, played down the current tension between Turkey and Israel, characterizing it as a political gesture.

“Turkey’s gestures against the Zionists are political and they [the Turks] have maintained their relations [with the Zionist regime] behind the scenes,” he said on Monday, according to the Iranian news agency Fars.

Ankara has rejected suggestions that NATO and Israel could share intelligence data collected by the U.S.-led radar system in eastern Turkey, insisting that the information should be available only for alliance members.

Adm. Stavridis last visited Turkey in March to discuss Turkish participation in NATO-led operations in Libya.

Meanwhile, pro-Turkish chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’ foreign affairs committee’s sub-committee on Europe and Eurasia Dan Burton met Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and was scheduled to meet with President Abdullah Gül and Erdoğan when the Daily News went print. k HDN

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Sevil Küçükkoşum
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News