Turkish PM's missile defense pierced by WikiLeaks
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 11/30/2010 12:00:00 AM | SERKAN DEMİRTAŞ
Senior Turkish officials' claims that plans for a radar system on Turkish soil had not been discussed prior to a recent NATO summit have been refuted by WikiLeaks.
Senior Turkish officials’ claims that plans for a radar system on Turkish soil had not been discussed prior to a recent NATO summit have been refuted by U.S. State Department cables released by the website WikiLeaks.
According to the documents, Turkey and the United States have been discussing the idea of such a system for nearly a year.
In one of the leaked cables sent to Washington, former U.S. Ambassador to Ankara James Jeffrey describes a Feb. 6 meeting in Ankara between U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his Turkish counterpart, Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül.
“Gönül told SecDef [Gates] that discussions about the radar were ongoing within the Turkish government and inquired about what alternate sites [the] U.S. was considering,” Jeffrey wrote in the diplomatic cable.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu have both long dismissed reports that the United States had begun trying to convince Turkey to allow a radar system to be based within its territory prior to the NATO summit held in Lisbon on Nov. 19 and 20.
“There has been no request made of Turkey. No request. As no request has been made of us, making a statement on the subject is useless. We won’t face any sort of a fait accompli at the NATO summit,” Erdoğan told reporters Oct. 16.
Similarly, Davutoğlu said, “Discussions on the matter were on principles rather than technicalities.”
The recently leaked cables seem, however, to completely contradict the top Turkish officials’ statements. “We have made the point to the Turks that a decision to not base the AN/TPY-2 radar in Turkey is essentially a decision to opt out of missile-defense coverage for Turkey; this would not be a political consequence, but just a fact based on physics and geometry,” Jeffrey said in an earlier cable to Washington that outlined the issues to be discussed during Gates’ visit to Ankara on Feb. 6.
The ambassador advised Gates to raise the issue again with Erdoğan in a gentle manner while emphasizing the value the United States places on Turkey’s participation in the project. Jeffrey’s use of the word “again” indicates this meeting would not be the first time Erdoğan heard about the radar request from Washington.
In a meeting in the U.S. capital with President Barack Obama, Erdoğan insisted the project should be a NATO initiative because he did not want to bear its political cost, both in terms of domestic politics and Turkey’s relations with Iran, the presumed target of the missile shield. The cable, however, clearly said, “Erdoğan is concerned that Turkey’s participation might later give Israel protection from an Iranian counter-strike.”
In response to the Turkish prime minister’s concerns, Gates further emphasized that “without radar based in Turkey, significant areas in the eastern part of the country would not be covered by the system.” If Turkey refused to offer its soil for the radar system, the United States said, it would be located in a Southeastern European country, leaving some parts of Turkey undefended against a potential missile attack.
[HH] Decision to be ‘political’
According to diplomats familiar with the negotiations, the upcoming months will bring more behind-the-door discussions between the two allies about the controversial radar system. NATO agreed at the Lisbon summit not to single out Iran as a threat to be thwarted by the missile shield, a key demand by Ankara.
“The decision will be political,” a diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday on condition of anonymity. “But we still have time to further discuss the details.”
NATO members approved a new Strategic Concept during the Lisbon summit that paved the way for the alliance to build its own missile shield to protect its members from a potential nuclear attack. It is still unclear, however, where the missiles will be deployed. Romania and Poland are both seen as top candidates. NATO countries are expected to discuss a plan in March and finalize it in June.