From Selcan Hacaoglu, the AP: An early warning radar will be stationed in Turkey’s southeast as part of NATO’s missile defense system, the foreign ministry announced Wednesday. The deployment reflects improving relations with the United States, which were strained after the invasion of Iraq.
The system is capable of countering ballistic missile threats from Turkey’s neighbor Iran, which has warned Turkey that deploying the radar at the military installation will escalate regional tensions. Turkey insists the shield doesn’t target a specific country and the ministry statement didn’t mention Iran.
Turkey agreed to host the radar in September in the framework of the NATO missile defense architecture, saying it would strengthen both its own and NATO’s defense 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. "That installation was used in the past for similar purposes."
Kurecik in Malatya province lies some 700 kilometers (435 miles) 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.
The deployment in Turkey, the biggest Muslim voice in NATO, signals improving ties with Washington since the 2003 Iraq invasion. Turkey also closely works with U.S. forces in NATO operations in Afghanistan and Libya, though it is not directly involved in combat.
Earlier this week, Turkey confirmed talks with the U.S. for possible deployment of Predator drones on its soil after the U.S. leaves Iraq. The U.S. currently shares drone surveillance data with Turkey to aid its fight against Kurdish rebels who have bases in Iraq. Turkish authorities did not specify if they want armed drones or just surveillance ones. (photo: Reuters)