The Republican People's Party (CHP) on Wednesday released a statement reiterating earlier protests against plans to install NATO early warning radar in Malatya's Kürecik district, saying the project made absolutely no contribution to Turkey's national security. The CHP headquarters released the statement, which said that “the government, which appears to be in a row with Israel in front of the curtain, has turned Turkey into a shield for Israel behind the curtain.”
The CHP said the statement was a joint declaration from all of the party's provincial branch leaders. The statement claimed that the US and Israel will be in charge of the radar. In a separate statement released individually, CHP Ankara branch leader Zeki Alçın said, “It is hard to understand a government that is incapable of protecting its own citizens is attempting to protect the entire world,” in a statement referring to deadly terrorist attacks in three Turkish provinces in the past 48 hours.
Erdoğan has faced particularity strong criticism from Kılıçdaroğlu, who in a press conference yesterday stated, “The intelligence that the radar will provide will be used for Israel’s defense.” Elaborating on his belief that information sharing was part of the agreement, he asked rhetorically, “Who is saying this? American officials themselves.”
Erdoğan, meanwhile, has repeatedly dismissed claims that the radar system is being deployed to protect Israel, reminding the public that the Jewish state is not a NATO member country. At a press conference in Washington yesterday, he referred to “an announcement the Pentagon made to reporters, (in which) it was said that this radar will give information to Israel.” Erdoğan asserted that both sides had agreed that information sharing would not occur, saying that the Americans have “corrected this and made announcements in connection to it.”
Kılıçdaroğlu has also criticized the government for supposedly stepping in line with NATO orders without substantial debate. “This is not a two sided agreement,” the chairman said as he answered questions from reporters yesterday. “This is entirely oriented towards NATO, this is a NATO program. The agreement was not made a subject of negotiation with Turkey.”
Against CHP criticism, Erdoğan has replied that the agreement is the result of a long and politically charged debate between Turkey and its alliance partners. Turkey initially rejected the terms for the radar agreement when it was proposed last year, stating that the agreement had to be subject to further changes. At the 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, it succeeded in removing a statement in the treaty that labeled Iran as a potential threat to the alliance. Turkey objected to any wording that labeled its neighbor as a threat, wording which Erdoğan called the “old mentality.”
Amidst a nationally escalating campaign to resist the proposal, the CHP has also been busy rallying the residents of Kürecik. Head of the CHP Malatya branch Veli Ağbaba has denounced the agreement and demanded that the radar plan be put up for referendum. On Wednesday, Ağbaba raised further alarm bells by stating that the site might make the community a target for missiles and could even expose residents to heightened cancer risk.
NATO has long viewed the radar installation as crucial to expanding its defense strategy in Eastern Europe. According to the NATO plan, missile interceptors in Romania and Poland combined with the radar in Turkey will create a broad system of protection for every NATO country against mid-range missile attacks.