Pakistan to attend NATO meet with Turkey’s help
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Oil tankers, which were used to transport NATO fuel supplies to troops working in Afghanistan, are parked at a compound in Karachi, Pakistan, May 15. AP photo
Turkey played a role in mediating between Pakistan and the United States to secure Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s participation at NATO’s Chicago summit next week, Turkish diplomatic sources have said.
Islamabad closed its Afghan border crossings to NATO after U.S. airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26, when Pakistan’s relations with the U.S. were already frayed by the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Pakistan shut the transit lines, which had been serving as supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan, in November. Turkey contributed to intense negotiations between the U.S. and Pakistan to get the country to reopen its border, which cleared the way for Zardari to attend next week’s NATO summit. Pakistan said yesterday it had ordered officials to finalize an agreement as quickly as possible on lifting a blockade on overland NATO supplies into Afghanistan. Turkey will be represented at the Chicago summit by President Abdullah Gül, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, and Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz.
President Gül will meet with new French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines of the NATO summit, marking Turkey’s first face-to-face diplomatic contact with French leader since his election.
Participation in the gathering will be the same as at the previous Lisbon summit, because allowing EU bureaucrats to join the main gathering was rejected by some countries including Turkey. Although the enlargement of NATO was not on the agenda for the summit, Ankara urged the alliance to convene a meeting with representatives from Georgia, Montenegro, Bosnia Herzegovina and Macedonia, which are prospective members of NATO, diplomatic sources said. The alliance will announce at the summit that the first phase of the U.S.-led NATO missile defense system has reached interim operational capability. Turkey hosts the early warning radar system of the project near the town of Kürecik in Malatya.
All of Turkey’s expectations regarding the rules of engagement for the missile defense system have been met, sources said. A Turkish general will be part of the command at the NATO base in Rammstein.
İzmir to become NATO land base by 2013
The Chicago summit will be a first step in implementing NATO’s “Smart Defense” concept, which aims to ensure greater security for less money by working together with more flexibility, with possible agreement between the allies on a series of concrete multinational projects to develop NATO’s Smart Defense capability. Turkey is willing to lead four of the 20 proposed Smart Defense projects, including a center for naval security and a center for flight training. A decision has been finalized to transform NATO’s air base in İzmir to a land forces command, where training would be conducted, sources said, adding that the new mission would settle there in late 2012 or 2013. The shift to Izmir, currently a NATO air base, would entail the closure of NATO’s two land commands at Heidelberg in Germany and another near Madrid.
With regard to further contributions in Afghanistan, even if NATO ends its mission there in 2014, Turkey will keep up its contributions if the Afghan government requests that, the source said.
Article 5 not on agenda
Turkey will undoubtedly invoke NATO’s mutual defense treaty if the country is subject to a serious threat or attack from neighboring Syria, the source said. “Right now there is no such situation requiring Turkey to invoke Article 5, but we will consider this option in the event of a serious attack on our sovereignty,” the source said. Ankara had raised the possibility of calling on NATO to help protect its border, when Syrian gunfire targeting refugees trying to cross into Turkey hit a camp on the Turkish side of the border last month.