September 7, 2011 Serkan Demirtaş - Hurriyet Daily News - TRDEFENCE
The NATO anti-missile system to be deployed in Turkey is important for the region, the prime minister has said, making the first indirect acknowledgement by Ankara that it targets the threat posed by Iran.
“We are of the opinion that the step taken [in deploying the radar system] is important for our region. That’s why we, as the government, have decided [to station the system in Turkey] after broad consultations,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said late Tuesday.
The Turkish government’s decision to host the radar system as part of the international missile-shield project comes as Ankara declared sanctions against Israel. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Ankara had only decided to deploy the radar system, not to station anti-ballistic missiles and their launching systems, on its soil. Foreign Ministry officials meanwhile underlined the fact that the missile-defense system was “not against any specific country but against a general threat of a nuclear attack.” At last year’s Lisbon Summit, Turkey sided against a number of NATO countries in insisting that the alliance not specify the nuclear threat posed by Iran in its new strategic concept. Erdoğan’s statement Tuesday, his first remarks on Turkey joining the missile-shield program, is seen however as an important indication that Turkey’s joining the project is in line with its overall regional evaluations. According to the Missile Defense Agency, a unit of the U.S. Department of Defense, both Iran and Syria have short- and medium-range ballistic missiles whose range covers all of Turkey.
Iran’s launch of a solid-fuel, 2,000-kilometer-medium-range ballistic missile demonstrated a capability to strike targets in Israel as well as southern Europe. Turkish military and government officials have expressed their concerns in the past about a nuclear Iran, but Erdoğan once described the claims that Tehran possesses nuclear weapons as “rumors.
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