ÜMİT ENGİNSOY > Turkey-Israel row a new headache for NATO?

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Turkey’s deeply strained ties with one-time ally Israel has found new venues for potential tension: NATO and the eastern Mediterranean. 

In mid-February, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen arrived in the Turkish capital to celebrate the only Muslim ally’s 60th anniversary as a member.

Instead, his Turkish hosts asked him to give assurances that any data and intelligence gathered from an X-band radar stationed last year on Turkish soil would not be shared with Israel. 

Speaking in Ankara at a joint press conference, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said “Turkey will never allow any third country, particularly Israel, to use intelligence obtained by the NATO radar system.” A reluctant Rasmussen said that any NATO defense shield aimed to protect the populations of the alliance. 

The dispute surfaced after reports that the United States and Israel had carried out a joint missile test by using intelligence gathered by that radar system based in eastern Turkey. Last year Ankara, after lengthy negotiations with NATO, decided to host in a military facility base near Malatya as part of NATO’s defense architecture. 

Ideally, in the event of a launch of a ballistic missile from a rogue state, it would be detected by the Turkish-deployed X-band radar, and U.S.-made SM-3 interceptors – based on U.S. Aegis destroyers to be deployed in the eastern Mediterranean and later possibly in Romania – would then be fired to hit the incoming missile mid-flight. 

Turkey and Israel boosted their cooperation to a strategic level in the mid-1990s, and Turkey began to use Israel as a weapons supplier, in cases where it was unable to get U.S. defense material. Israel used Turkey’s vast air space in exercises against Arab foes.

But this cooperation faltered after 2005 as Turkey defended Palestinians against Israeli persecution. After May 2010, when Israeli commandos raided a Turkish aid flotilla, killing nine Turks on board, their relations went to a nadir. Turks last year downgraded diplomatic ties with Israel and cut all military relations. 

But despite NATO’s assurances, the Turks do not feel comfortable. “The U.S. is a NATO member and Israel’s major ally. We do not think there can be effective mechanisms to stop the Pentagon if it wished to share data with Israel privately,” a senior Turkish security official said. “And this possibility has the risk of straining both Turkish-U.S. and Turkish-NATO alliance especially at a time when Turkey’s ties with both are very good.” 

Another potential trouble zone is the eastern Mediterranean where Israel and Greek Cyprus are preparing to explore for hydrocarbons despite repeated Turkish threats to intervene, “militarily if necessary.” 

Turkey warned last September that it was ready to send warships to escort research vessels that would explore for oil and gas off the coast of Cyprus, responding to what it said was a provocation by the island’s Greek Cypriot south. 

The Turkish move came as Texas-based Noble Energy began exploratory drilling farther south between Cyprus and Israel early this year. Noble was operating under license from the Republic of Cyprus, the island’s internationally recognized government in the Greek Cypriot south. The developments raised the stakes in a dispute over drilling rights around the divided island.


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Notice on comments

Peter Panayiotou

3/12/2012 8:45:40 PM

Mr Green. Turkey will throw up a ring of steel around Cyprus? let her try. She will not be allowed to by many parties not just Greece and Israel. Turkey's air force and navy are good but they cannot prevail against all so get back to reality.

Blue Dotterel

3/5/2012 8:07:33 PM

Its not a problem. Turkey does virtually nothing over the Palestinians, nothing over the Mavi Marmara, and even assists Israel's cause in Syria. Turkey's squawking isn't serious, and Israel knows it.

rich bind

3/5/2012 5:47:39 PM

Turkey strongly objects to Israel bombing Iran's nuke sites, yet she denies Israel the use of early warning data, a clear sign that Israel MUST act alone. Then Turkey threatens use of force against Israel & Cyprus over gas fields she does not own.

Chris Green

3/5/2012 4:49:45 PM

The growing tensions arising from Israel's deals with south Cyprus could easily lead to Turkey throwing up a ring of naval steel around the island which would cause deep fault lines within NATO who, without doubt need Turkey at least strategically!

david ellison

3/5/2012 1:57:09 PM

Most non Turks realize that it is only a matter of time before Turkey and Israel will need it other. Turkey goes from one Disasterous relationship to another . Syria, Iran just two examples.

Red Tail

3/5/2012 12:44:28 PM

Maybe it is not the end of the world for Turkey if it is shared? The only harm such a sharing could do is to protect Israel from a misile attack from Iran.......

dogan kemal ileri

3/5/2012 3:27:22 AM

There is no effective way for Turkiye to shield the information gathered by x-band radar services positioned in Malatya from the Israelis since the USA will privately most certainly share this with the Israelis.And it will be very naive to think not.
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