Clinton and Gates meet with Turkish leaders to discuss missile defense vote and radar base

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates meeting with their counterparts from Turkey, 10/14/10.

From Craig Whitlock, the Washington Post:  Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with their Turkish counterparts on the sidelines of the NATO meeting Thursday to discuss whether Turkey will allow a high-powered X-band radar on its territory. The location of the radar is the last unresolved piece in the first phase of the Pentagon’s missile defense shield for Europe.

"I would say that we are not putting pressure on the Turks, but we are having continuing conversations with them as one of our allies," Gates said at a news conference in Brussels.

Although Turkey is a longtime NATO member, its government has developed closer ties with Iran in recent years and appears reluctant to take steps that Tehran might consider hostile. Turkish officials have also sought guarantees that the anti-missile shield would cover the eastern part of their country, which borders Iran.

Pentagon officials are seeking Turkey’s agreement to host the radar installation but also to vote in favor of missile defense as a NATO mission at next month’s summit. Because NATO operates by consensus, Turkish opposition could scuttle the alliance’s plans.

"We’ve had some very good, deep discussions with Turkey, and now the decisions are in Ankara to make," Jim Townsend Jr., deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday.

Pentagon officials said they have been negotiating with other NATO allies in southern Europe to host the radar in case Turkey balks. One alternative is Bulgaria, which like Turkey borders the Black Sea but is farther from Iran.  (photo: Getty)

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