'Missile shield should cover Turkey, EU'

NATO's top official has said that any missile shield to be deployed in Europe should cover the entire continent, including Turkey, which has been left outside the scope of a proposed US system.

'Missile shield should cover Turkey, EU'
"We have the sacred principle in NATO of the principle of indivisibility of security," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a group of Turkish journalists at the NATO headquarters in Brussels this week. "We have no A league or B league in NATO. Every NATO ally is entitled to the same kind of protection."

The US is in talks with Poland and the Czech Republic to put parts of its long-range defense shield on their soil. The negotiations are not expected to produce immediate results. The proposed system, which the US says will protect most of Europe and North America from missile threats from what it calls "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea, leaves NATO allies Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece out of its protective umbrella.

De Hoop Scheffer said if the ongoing talks between the US and Poland and the Czech Republic are concluded positively and parts of the US system are based in these countries, then NATO will be responsible for ensuring that all allies have the same protection. "Because all of continental Europe then should be protected against missiles," he said. "The US system is a big plus. It gives protection to a large part of continental Europe, but not to all of continental Europe."

NATO has long been considering the possibility of developing a missile shield to protect the entire territory of the 26-nation alliance, but the debate has been overtaken by the US plan to base part of its own system in Poland and the Czech Republic. NATO officials have said recently that they expect progress, but no final decision, on the proposed short-range anti-missile program at a summit of the alliance between April 2 and 4 in Bucharest to complement the wider system developed by the US.

Asked whether it would be possible to integrate the US and NATO systems, De Hoop Scheffer declined to comment, adding that it was too early to say anything. However, he emphasized that the whole debate about the missile shield should be "NATO-ized," meaning that all 26 allies should be able to debate it and benefit from the protection it provides.

Ankara, which is working on plans to build its own national missile shield, argues, along the same line with the NATO secretary-general, for "indivisibility of security." Ambassador Tacan İldem, Turkey's permanent representative at NATO, told journalists on Monday that leaving some of the NATO allies out of the missile shield would lead to complications.

"The objective at this stage is to create an architecture that would fill the gaps in the proposed US system. The US system can then become a part of it," İldem said. Recent statements from the Pentagon indicating that Defense Secretary Robert Gates discussed the issue of the missile shield during his talks in Ankara last month led to speculation in the Turkish media that the US might be seeking a deal to base parts of its missile defense system in Turkey. But responding to a question on the speculations, İldem said there has been no discussion yet on deploying components of the proposed US or NATO systems in Turkey.

Support for NATO enlargement

NATO's Bucharest summit is also expected to discuss the possible enlargement of the alliance. Three Balkan countries, namely Macedonia, Croatia and Albania are hoping to receive an invitation to join NATO at the coming summit. There is broad support within NATO for accession of the three countries, but the plan could fail due to a bitter name dispute between Macedonia and NATO member Greece. Athens rejects the name Macedonia because it says it implies territorial ambitions toward Greece's own northern province of Macedonia.

De Hoop Scheffer said he hoped the name dispute between Athens and Skopje would be resolved by the time of the summit so as to allow accession of the three countries. İldem said most NATO members want the three countries to be invited to join despite the name dispute. Ankara, which recognizes Macedonia with its current name, is one of the many countries in NATO that supports accession of the three countries, İldem noted.

No need for military support against PKK

Responding to questions on Turkey's fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), De Hoop Scheffer reiterated NATO's strong support for Turkey's efforts against terrorism, but added that the alliance has not discussed the possibility of offering Ankara military support under Article 5 of the alliance's charter because Turkey has dealt effectively with the problem on its own so far.

"I would rather think that Article 4, which is about consultations among allies, would be used," he said. "A discussion on Article 5 has not been held in this regard. I don't expect it to be held … because Turkey has given the impression that it was very well able to cope with the PKK."

"There is no need to tell you that the PKK is considered as a terrorist organization. Everything should be done to prevent innocent Turks, military or civilian -- and even children from time to time -- from becoming the victims of this horrible and despicable form of terrorism," he added.

Today's Zaman

Güncelleme Tarihi: 19 Mart 2008, 16:02