Intense debates prior to NATO summit amplify its importance

Intense debates prior to NATO      summit amplify its importance

The defense and foreign ministers of NATO’s 28 member states gathered at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on April 18 for two days of talks to prepare for the forthcoming NATO Summit in Chicago on May 20-21. (PHOTOEPA, OLIVIER HOSLET)

May 20, 2012, Sunday/ 12:46:00/ SİNEM CENGİZ

Over the last few months debates, including that of Turkey’s severe stance regarding the possibility of Israel’s participation in the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago, where leaders from around the world are expected to gather, have amplified the importance of the summit, experts say.

“Until recently, topics to be discussed at the summit were expected to be ‘business as usual’, but two important developments, of which one is directly related to, and the other implicates, Turkey, have changed the agenda of the world as well as Turkey,” Prof. Dr. Mustafa Kibaroğlu, an arms control expert at Okan University in İstanbul, told Sunday’s Zaman.

Kibaroğlu stated that one of the developments was Turkey’s stance regarding Israel’s participation in the summit, noting: “Turkey’s stance brought the bilateral relations between the two countries to the international agenda.”

This refers to recent claims that Turkey has blocked Israel’s participation in NATO’s Chicago summit, scheduled to be held on May 20-21. However, both American and Turkish officials have emphasized the fact that there was no particular invitation to Israel for Turkey to block. While acknowledging this, Turkish officials have made it clear that Turkey would not have hesitated to veto its participation in the summit.

According to Kibaroğlu, the second development increasing the importance of the summit is Russia’s stance regarding the proposed European nuclear missile defense system.  “Putin’s exaggerated opposition to the missile defense system and his recent statements are important. By doing this Putin wants to revitalize his prestige in the eyes of his people and of the world in his second round of presidency following a term as prime minister which was shadowed by Medvedev as Russia’s President,” said Kibaroğlu, stressing that the summit would be unremarkable without the inclusion of these two issues on the international agenda.

During the summit, hosted by US President Barack Obama, members of NATO are also expected to discuss the current situation in Syria.

Turkish officials said last Wednesday that Article 5 of the NATO Charter will not be on the summit’s agenda, adding, however, that NATO intervention is a possibility with a UN Security Council decision or if a NATO member faces a serious threat to its territory.

“Currently there is no threat of Turkey invoking Article 5 of the NATO Charter. In the event of a threat, Turkey will take the issue to NATO’s agenda,” said the same source.

Turkey first raised the issue of NATO protection of Turkish borders under Article 5 on April 10, following an incident along Turkey’s border with Syria. Article 5, known as the collective defense clause, commits NATO states to defend a member state when it comes under attack.

Mehmet Yeğin, an expert on international security at the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), told Sunday’s Zaman that the real objective was to create a roadmap for the implementation of decisions taken at the Lisbon summit. He added that NATO summits are designed not only to determine an overall strategy for the organization but also to focus on recent issues. “The leaders might bring out a new roadmap or approach towards the Syrian issue. It is important to underline that even if they set a roadmap, this will not be implemented before the US elections because the US will prefer not to turn the Syrian issue into a domestic political issue. Therefore, the US will even consider a possible NATO intervention in Syria as problematic. In such an intervention it is very obvious that the US will be the country which will carry the greater portion of the burden,” said Yeğin.

At the Chicago summit NATO leaders will also discuss the principles and policies that will shape the Alliance of 2020 and beyond. They are expected to discuss security, stability, the Alliance’s deterrent power and the strengthening of NATO partnerships. Other focuses of the summit will be a smart defense system, the announcement of the ballistic missile defense system capability and steps for delivering on decisions taken at the Lisbon summit.

At the Lisbon summit, which was held in November 2010, NATO leaders adopted a new strategic concept that will serve as the Alliance’s next 10-year plan following the expiration of the previous plan adopted at the Washington summit in 1999.

Afghanistan is another issue to be canvassed in Chicago. Leaders will discuss possible ways to complete NATO’s transition process in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, in accordance with the agreement reached at the Lisbon summit between NATO nations and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The summit -- which will be attended by heads of state and governments, cabinet ministers and other high-ranking government officials -- is the largest meeting ever organized by NATO.

Turkey will be represented by President Abdullah Gül, who will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz and several government officials.

President Gül will hold several bilateral meetings during the summit, including a meeting with newly elected French President François Hollande.

One of Turkey’s leading experts on international politics, Tayyar Arı from Uludağ University, has told Sunday’s Zaman that in recent years relations between Turkey and NATO have improved, adding that regional crises play important roles in their collaboration. “The region is being dragged into a new crisis,” Arı noted. “In this context, Turkey needs to take part in a new security structure. It is obvious that this structure will be NATO and that Turkey has no choice but to take part in this structure.”

“Turkey changes its policies in response to regional crises. A crisis might emerge due to Iranian, Iraqi or Israeli policies. For the last few years, due to these countries’ conflicting policies, Turkey and NATO have come closer. It seems that these close relations will last for a long period,” he added.

Turkish officials have declared that a Turkish general will be given authority at the headquarters of the missile defense system, adding that the summit is also expected to announce the implementation of the capability of the ballistic missile defense system deployed at Kürecik, a southeastern province of Malatya.

Turkish officials maintain NATO’s radar system does not target any country and was intended for “defense purposes only.”

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