Turkish PM rebukes NATO over China missile deal criticism

Turkish PM rebukes NATO over China missile deal criticism

Turkish PM rebukes NATO over China missile deal criticism

DAILY NEWS photo / Selahattin Sönmez

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rebuffed intensified international criticism over Turkey’s choice to agree a missile defense deal with China, a day after NATO declared that it wanted a say in the decision-making process.

“Nobody has the right to overshadow our understanding of independence,” Erdoğan said Oct. 23 before departing for Kosovo.

The prime minister’s statement came a day after NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s remarks expressed the hope that NATO’s reaction would be taken into account before Turkey makes its final decision over the long-range anti-missile system.

Rasmussen stressed that NATO was completely aware that deciding which equipment to purchase is a national decision, but also stressed Turkey’s international commitments. “It’s of utmost importance that the system that a nation plans to acquire can work and operate together with similar systems in other Allied nations,” he said.

However, ignoring NATO’s stance on the issue, Erdoğan said there was no problem with the deal in terms of Turkey’s national preferences.

President Abdullah Gül also said Oct. 23 that Turkey gave utmost importance to its relations with allies, but also it was “natural to consider national interests in such decisions.”

“There are many technical issues here, they were all calculated and this result came out,” Gül told reporters in Ankara. “The missiles to be bought and their integration are technical issues. No one should misinterpret it. Besides, there are similar applications in other NATO member states.”

Erdoğan said Turkey and China had already conducted an exercise with NATO’s knowledge and everything is proceeding by the book, adding that many points, including the operational capabilities of the missiles, the price and the option of joint production, had been taken into consideration when making the decision.

“The joint production clause is rated highly by us. All offers [in defense tenders] are studied on a points system, and I, my Chief of General staff and my Defense Minister look at them, we are briefed and then make a decision,” he said.

The decisions are mostly about authorizing the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) for talks, the prime minister added.

“We tell the undersecretariat to start negotiations on certain conditions, and then we make the final decision based on the talks. Currently the Chinese offer has the highest points. Undersecretariat officials and China are currently working on it,” Erdoğan said, adding that comments by NATO or any country would not have effect on the decision.

“Many NATO member states have Russian weapons in their inventories. If NATO is so sensitive about the issue it would remove the weapons from Russia in NATO’s own inventory,” he said.

The Turkish government’s decision to start negotiations with a Chinese firm for the co-production of the $3.4 billion missile defense system has triggered serious concerns from NATO and among member countries, particularly the United States. The fact that the Chinese company, China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp’s (CPMIEC), is under U.S. sanctions also complicates the situation.

*An earlier version of this article misquoted the prime minister. Hürriyet Daily News regrets the error.