While in Turkey, in addition to her counterpart, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Clinton will also meet with President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to discuss the situation in Libya and Syria and a full range of shared bilateral and multilateral issues.
US senators and their staff will be watching closely to see if she pushes the agenda on an agreement to station a US missile defense radar in Turkey, an agreement many Republicans oppose, foreign policy blog The Cable reported on Wednesday.
“We write with concern over recent reports that the administration may be nearing completion of a bilateral agreement with the Turkish Government to base a US AN/TPY-2 (X-Band) radar in Turkey,” wrote Republican Senators Jon Kyl of Arizona and Mark Kirk of Illinois in a July 12 letter to Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta obtained by The Cable.
At the NATO summit of heads of state and government in Lisbon last year, Turkey formally backed NATO plans to build a missile defense system, saying it will also contribute to national defense against the growing threat of ballistic missile proliferation.
The summit came after months of discussions between Turkey and the US, in particular over some aspects of the proposed shield, most notably whether countries such as Turkey's neighbors Iran and Syria should be named as potential threats. Ankara insisted that the proposed system should provide protection for all territories of member states and that reference to any country would undermine the defensive nature of the shield by antagonizing countries singled out as a threat. The Turkish insistence paid off in the end as the NATO summit endorsed the missile defense system plans without naming any country as a potential threat.
“Since the Lisbon summit, the missile defense plan has been settled within the framework of NATO. It no longer has a bilateral aspect; thus there is no prospect or need for the signing of a bilateral agreement between Ankara and Washington,” a Turkish diplomat told Today's Zaman on Thursday. “Of course, there may be consultations between Turkey and other NATO allies, but that is common practice,” added the diplomat, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.
When approached by Today's Zaman and asked what the senators might have meant by saying “bilateral agreement,” US Embassy officials in Ankara said they had no information regarding the letter.
The same Turkish diplomat elaborated on Ankara's approach to the issue, recalling that within the new Strategic Concept of the Alliance, which was decided upon at the Lisbon summit, the missile defense had been accepted as a fundamental element of NATO's joint defense system.
“The to-be established system will serve in a defense-oriented capacity which does not aim at any offensive against another country. Ankara attaches high importance to the fact that this defensive system will not only make a contribution to the NATO countries' security but will also contribute to regional and global security and efforts for disarmament in general,” the diplomat said.
“The work done within the alliance for improving the NATO missile defense system is continuing within this context. By their very nature, consultations concerning this issue are also being held among the allies. Turkish-US talks on this issue are being held as part of consultations among the allies within the framework of the NATO missile defense system, which will also include the United States' Phased Adaptive Approach,” the diplomat added.
The Cable, meanwhile, reported that the senators want the radar to be based in either Georgia or Azerbaijan, arguing that these two countries are better locations for defense against a missile attack from Iran.
“But more broadly, they are concerned that Ankara will place a number of onerous restrictions on the radar, such as demanding that no data be shared with Israel. The senators have also accused Turkey of violating US sanctions against Iran, which they said calls into question their reliability as a partner in organizing a missile defense system aimed at Tehran,” The Cable said.