Turkey will host radar for NATO missile shield
Surveys and legal arrangements 'finalized,' government says
An early warning radar will be stationed in Turkey's southeast as part of NATO's missile defence system, the foreign ministry announced Wednesday.
The system is capable of countering ballistic missile threats from Turkey's neighbour Iran, which last week warned Turkey that deployment of the radar at the military installation would escalate regional tensions.
Turkey insists the shield is not targeting a particular country and the ministry statement made no mention of Iran.
Turkey agreed to host the radar in September in the framework of the NATO missile defence architecture, saying it would strengthen both its own and NATO's defence capacities.
"In this context, the site surveys and relevant legal arrangements have also been finalized, and accordingly a military installation in Kurecik has been designated as the radar site," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Selcuk Unal said.
Kurecik in Malatya province lies some 700 kilometres west of the Iranian border.
In September, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said the United States hopes to have the radar deployed there by the end of the year.
Turkey's announcement came a day after Romania signed a deal to host a crucial part of a U.S. missile defence system that Romania's President Traian Basescu said would bolster security in the U.S. and Europe.
NATO members agreed to an anti-missile system over Europe to protect against Iranian ballistic missiles at a summit in Lisbon, Portugal, last year.
U.S. interceptors linked with European missiles
A compromise not to pinpoint Iran was reached with Turkey, which had threatened to block the deal if its neighbour was explicitly named as a threat.
Turkey has built close economic ties with Iran and has been at odds with the United States on its stance toward Iran's nuclear program, arguing for a diplomatic solution to the standoff instead of sanctions.
But the agreement over hosting the radar comes at a time when Turkey and Iran appear to be differing on their approach toward Syria, with Turkey becoming increasingly critical of Iranian ally Syria's brutal suppression of anti-regime protests.
Under the NATO plans, a limited system of U.S. anti-missile interceptors and radars already planned for Europe — to include interceptors in Romania and Poland as well as the radar in Turkey — would be linked to expanded European-owned missile defences.
Russia opposes the planned missile defence system, which it worries could threaten its own nuclear missiles or undermine their deterrence capability. Moscow agreed to consider a NATO proposal last year to co-operate on the missile shield, but insisted the system be run jointly. NATO rejected that demand and no compromise has been found yet.
The Islamic Republic remains locked in a standoff with the West over its nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies suspect is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Iran denies the charges, and says the program is only for peaceful purposes.