“Data collected within the missile defense system, the intelligence will not be shared with third countries. It will be shared with the allies within our alliance,” Rasmussen, in Ankara to mark the 60th anniversary of Turkey's membership in NATO, said at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. The top NATO official also emphasized once again that the system is a defensive project aimed at protecting NATO members from missile threat. Turkey has agreed to deploy US radar as part of the missile defense system last autumn, after seeking guarantees in preceding talks for months that Israel will not have access to data to be collected by the radar.
Davutoğlu emphasized that the missile defense system will not offer intelligence to Israel, whose ties with Turkey have been in a state of crisis since Israeli commandos killed nine Turks during a May 31, 2010 raid on an aid ship trying to breach an Israeli blockade of Gaza. Certain news reports alleging that the missile defense system in Turkey was recently tested by an Israeli missile were groundless and baseless, Davutoğlu also noted. “NATO facilities and capacities are used only and only by NATO allies as part of NATO solidarity,” he said. “We never allow a NATO facility to be used by a third party. I want to make this very clear. And, if this party was Israel, our attitude would be more clear and visible,” Davutoğlu said.
In separate remarks, Rasmussen also said the Western alliance had no intention of intervening in Syria even in the event of a UN mandate to protect civilians, and urged Middle East countries to find a way to end the spiraling violence.
Speaking in an interview with Reuters, Rasmussen also rejected the possibility of providing logistical support for proposed “humanitarian corridors” to ferry relief to towns and cities bearing the brunt of President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
“We have no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria,” Rasmussen said, emphasizing that while NATO had acted under a United Nations mandate to protect civilians in Libya and had also received active support from several fellow Arab countries, neither condition had been fulfilled in Syria.
Asked if NATO’s stance would change if the United Nations provided a mandate, Rasmussen was doubtful. “No, I don’t think so because Syria is also a different society, it is much more complicated ethnically, politically, religiously. That’s why I do believe that a regional solution should be found,” he said.
The NATO secretary-general also visited Turkish Parliament, attending a joint meeting of parliamentary Defense and Foreign Policy Committees and NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) Turkish group. Visiting on the occasion of 60th anniversary of Turkey’s NATO membership, Rasmussen stated in Parliament that Turkey provided an important contribution to NATO missions, stressing Turkey’s importance for the alliance and expressing gratitude to Turkey for its contributions to NATO’s efforts to preserve international peace and stability. Rasmussen also mentioned Turkey’s important contribution for NATO missions in Balkans during the post-Cold War era and for missions in Afghanistan where NATO forces still present.
Meanwhile, Volkan Bozkır, parliamentary foreign affairs committee chairman, said in parallel remarks that Turkey, in cooperation with NATO, facilitated security and stability in Balkans and the Middle East. “Turkey will continue to be a reliable ally and continue to contribute to NATO just as it did in the past 60 years,” Bozkır emphasized, adding that Turkey has the second largest military following US at the top, among NATO member countries. During the meeting, Bozkir and Rasmussen discussed a NATO summit to take place in Chicago in May in which NATO’s future would be debated.
In relation to NATO’s duty on Afghanistan, Rasmussen said NATO is making efforts so that Afghanistan becomes a safer place and a country in which terrorists cannot roam freely. He added that Afghanistan will still need NATO presence after 2014, the deadline for withdrawal of foreign troops. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Feb.1 that the United States would stop taking the lead role in combat operations before the end of 2013 and step into a supporting role as it winds down its longest war.