Israel to get no data from NATO’s shield
The data within the NATO missile system will not be shared with third countries, NATO’s Rasmussen (L) reassures Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, who insists on singling out Israel from ‘third countries’ when he says ‘especially if it’s about Israel, our view is clear.’ DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ
Data collected by an early-warning NATO radar system in Turkey will not be transferred to Israel, both Turkish and NATO officials confirmed Feb. 17, underlining that the missile defense project was designed to protect NATO territories and populations.
“Data is shared within our allies, among our allies. It’s a defensive system to protect the populations of NATO allies,” Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Turkey’s membership in the alliance.
Following insistent questions from Turkish media and lawmakers, Rasmussen had to repeat several times that “it was a NATO system and the data within the system will not be shared with third countries.”
However, Davutoğlu was firmer in singling out Israel from “third countries” when he said, “Especially if it’s about Israel, our view is clear.”
Turkey decided to deploy an U.S. early warning radar system in the eastern province of Malatya’s Kürecik area after long negotiations with the alliance. NATO assured Turkey that the data to be collected by the system would be processed at a NATO base in Ramstein, Germany, where a senior Turkish commander will also be stationed.
The anti-ballistic missiles designed to shoot down any incoming missile will be station on Aegis vessels in the eastern Mediterranean until new such missiles can be deployed in Romania and Poland as part of the program.
Rasmussen said the system would cover all of Turkey’s territory and population in the event of a ballistic attack.
“We appreciate that Turkey has agreed to host one of the facilities,” Rasmussen said in his first visit to Turkey after the radar system became operational Jan. 1, 2012.
Turkey’s relationship with Israel was severely strained in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara incident in which nine Turks were killed at the hands of Israeli commandos in 2010. Turkey blocked Israel’s demand to boost its ties with NATO.
“Turkey is a valuable ally and Israel is a valuable partner,” Rasmussen said, adding that NATO was willing to see a speedy reconciliation between its ally and partner. Further cooperation of NATO with Israel was not on the agenda of yesterday’s talks, a diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News.
No NATO role in Syria
Another topic discussed during Rasmussen’s visit was developments regarding the Arab Spring, with Syria being especially high on the agenda.
Rasmussen said NATO was not planning on playing any role in Syria even though alliance-member Turkey’s shared border with the Arab republic meant the body was closely monitoring developments in the strife-torn country.
During an interview with Reuters on Feb. 17, the NATO chief said the alliance had no intention of intervening in Syria even in the event of a U.N. mandate to protect civilians and called on regional countries to find a way to deal with the problem.
Rasmussen also rejected the possibility of providing logistical support for proposed humanitarian corridors to ferry relief to towns and cities bearing the brunt of President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. “We have no intention whatsoever of intervening in Syria,” Rasmussen said.
Praising Turkey’s role
Rasmussen also praised the role Turkey was playing in its region. “Turkey does more than just share our security. Your expertise in the Middle East and North Africa are valuable. They benefit the whole of NATO,” he said.
“That’s particularly important now across the region. The people are rising up and demanding rights the same rights as we NATO citizens have long enjoyed,” Rasmussen said, adding that as the Arab Spring continued to unfold, Turkey’s leadership would be crucial.
In separate messages on the commemoration of the 60th anniversary, President Abdullah Gül said Turkey had become the pivotal country of NATO while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said both Turkey and NATO had become more dependent on each other in terms of security needs.
Meanwhile, Turkish Ambassador to Athens Kerim Uras visited the Greek Foreign Ministry on Feb. 17 to convey Ankara’s disturbance over remarks by the Greek foreign minister that NATO had failed to prevent Turkish threats to Greece, diplomatic sources told the Daily News.