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In wake of summit, debate with Turkey over NATO missile shield likely to continue

In wake of summit, debate with Turkey over NATO missile shield likely to continue

Turkish officials expressed their satisfaction with the new Strategic Concept approved at a NATO summit in Lisbon over the weekend, yet the country is likely to be at the center of continued debate following the meeting. Turkey plays a major role in two key, and heated, subjects discussed at the summit: creating a shield against ballistic missiles and a formula for better-functioning relations between the alliance and the European Union. One of the few members of NATO that is not also a part of the EU, Turkey objected to singling out Iran as a threat to be thwarted by the missile shield. The alliance's decision not to mention Iran was seen in Ankara as a successful outcome of the summit. "The alliance does not consider any country to be its adversary," says the new concept. "However, no one should doubt NATO's resolve if the security of any of its members were to be threatened." Despite granting Turkey's request not to name Iran as the main source of a potential attack, NATO members' concerns about the country's controversial nuclear program were the primary reason for speeding up the missile shield efforts. According to the joint communiqué issued at the close of the summit, the North Atlantic Council will develop "missile defense consultation, command and control arrangements" by the time NATO defense ministers meet next March and have created an action plan to implement the missile shield by next June. By clearly setting the timetable for political and technical preparations for the missile shield, the communiqué signals further negotiations within the alliance, and between Turkey and main powers of NATO. Ongoing discussions at NATO additionally foresee Turkey as the venue for radar deployment and some Eastern and Central European countries as the venue for delivery systems of the anti-ballistic missiles. "Nothing is certain yet," said a Turkish diplomat, adding that the negotiations will continue. "The technical sphere of the issue is multidimensional. Setting aside political preferences, the technical requirements and defensive necessities will be much more important."

 

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