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Turkey conditionally approves NATO missile shield

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 10/15/2010 12:00:00 AM | Sevil KÜÇÜKKOŞUM

Turkey indicated Thursday that it could approve the deployment of a proposed US-led anti-missile system on Turkish soil, though it expressed some reservations.

Turkey indicated Thursday during a meeting of NATO ministers that it could approve the deployment of a proposed U.S.-led anti-missile system on Turkish soil, though it expressed reservations about the project.

“We demanded that Iran and Syria not be cited as ‘threats’ in NATO’s official documents on the planned defensive shield,” Turkish Foreign Ministry officials told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Friday. “Also, the deployment of the shield should cover the territory of all NATO allies, as well as the entire territory of Turkey.”

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The defense and foreign ministers of NATO member countries gathered in Brussels on Thursday to discuss a new “strategic concept” that will shape the alliance’s new vision to face new threats. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül attended the event, where they met with their U.S. counterparts, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, to talk about extending the alliance’s missile-defense system against ballistic threats from Iran and North Korea.

Ankara told the U.S. officials that if defense is the purpose of the system, no nations should be named in NATO documents as targets, since that would provoke those countries, according to the same diplomatic sources.

“In that case, Turkey could face problems with its neighbors due to the missile shield,” diplomatic sources told the Daily News.

The technical discussions on the issue will continue until the NATO summit Nov. 19-20 in Brussels, where a decision is expected to be made.

“This is not a reservation, but the conditions needed for negotiation. We are negotiating the terms of it, and naturally parties are presenting their opinions,” Defense Minister Gönül told reporters Friday.

Recalling that Turkey was assessing the compatibility of the proposed missile system with Turkey’s own missile capabilities, Gönül said one important concern for Turkey is how the NATO missile shield would affect the national missile system and what kind of cost advantages it would bring. He said the proposed NATO missile-shield system could bring significant cost reductions for Turkey.

“The missile shield is a defense system, so it can’t target any country,” Gönül said, responding to concerns that the missile shield targets Iran.

NATO leaders are expected to sign the strategic concept, which will replace a document written in 1999, at the November summit. The draft of the new strategic concept has been delivered to the alliance’s members, and Turkey has voiced objections to the wording of the documents, which specifies certain countries, including Iran, as threats.

The United States has been talking to Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria about the planned missile shield, which it intends to deploy under the auspices of NATO.

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