US pledges to deliver Predators, Cobras to Turkey by end of year

The U.S. pledged to deliver three Cobra helicopters and several Predator surveillance aircraft to Turkey by the end of the year to aid in the fight against terrorism as two police officers were killed by suspected militants in the southern province of Osmaniye on Oct. 28.

A senior delegation from the U.S. led by Assistant Secretary of the Department of Defense Alexander Vershbow visited Ankara on Oct. 27 and held talks with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. They discussed a list of measures against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that Turkey had given the U.S.

The U.S. officials said Washington would provide Turkey with three Cobra helicopters, to be dispatched from U.S. forces in Afghanistan, stressing that the administration had won a preliminary consent from the U.S. Congress, a senior Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News.

The two police officers killed Oct. 28, Mehmet Ali Ünal and Vahap Alagöz, were traffic officers reportedly answering a fake call about a traffic accident when a group of PKK militants attacked them. Osmaniye Gov. Celalettin Cerrah said one PKK militant was killed in the clash and operations were underway to capture the other attackers.

Complicated procedure

Under U.S. law, the administration must provide 15 days’ formal notice to Congress before going ahead with a transfer like the Cobra deal with Turkey. The Turkish diplomat said Washington was planning to follow the normal procedures, which could result in a short delay in the transfer to early 2012.

On the issue of Predator drones, the U.S. officials promised to rebase several aircraft to the İncirlik Air Base from Iraq as its forces are pulling out, the diplomat said, adding that the number was not clear. He said Turkey still wanted to buy its own Predators from the United States but that the purchase would require a complicated approval process in Congress, posing political risks at a time when Turkey relations with Israel are on the rocks.

The transfer of U.S. military equipment was part of a list of demands that Turkey conveyed to the U.S. when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited New York in September and held talks with President Barack Obama.

Following the deadly PKK attacks in Çukurca, “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu agreed to work to improve counter-terrorism efforts and President Barack Obama told Prime Minister Erdoğan that he would send a team to Turkey to carry out the work,” a U.S. Embassy statement said.

In a related development, Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK) has warned that countries who shelter and encourage PKK militants will be considered as sharing responsibility for the harm caused by terrorism, in a statement issued late Oct. 27 after its routine bimonthly meeting.

The MGK also urged friendly countries and allies “to prevent activities of the terrorist organization and its supporters on their soil, take the necessary measures to cut off the terrorists’ financial channels and extend efficient support to Turkey’s struggle against terrorism.”

The MGK asserted Turkey’s commitment to cooperate with Iraq and underlined Ankara’s determination and expectations for the eradication of PKK bases in northern Iraq.

Meanwhile, Erdoğan met behind closed doors with Iraqi Vice President Tareq Hashimi on Oct. 28, after which he held an unscheduled talk with Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel.

Friday, October 28, 2011
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News