Turkey will never share intelligence gathered by a NATO radar system stationed on its soil with Israel, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Friday, during a joint news conference with visiting NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Ankara.
“NATO facilities and capacities are used only and only by NATO allies as part of NATO solidarity,” Davutoglu was quoted as saying in the Turkish newspaper Sunday’s Zaman. “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.” His comments came against the backdrop of reports that the U.S. and Israel conducted a joint missile test using data gathered by a NATO radar system in eastern Turkey.
Israel and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency earlier this month successfully tested an upgraded radar for the Arrow missile defense system designed to intercept projectiles that could be fired at Israel, potentially from Iran.
Rasmussen said the radar system was a defensive project meant to protect NATO members from missile threats. “It is a NATO system and we appreciate that Turkey has agreed to host one of the facilities,” Rasmussen said. “Data are shared within our alliance among the allies. It is a defense system to protect the populations of NATO allies,” he added, without referring specifically to Israel, which is not part of the NATO alliance.
Turkey agreed late last year to deploy the early warning radar system after seeking guarantees from the U.S. that Israel would not have access to intelligence gathered by it. NATO also agreed to post a high-ranking Turkish general at its headquarters in Germany, where intelligence gathered through the radar system would be processed, according to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.
The radar system has been up and running since January, and has already drawn criticism from Tehran. “The U.S. radar stationed in Turkey is no good for any Muslim country,” Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said at a mid-January press conference. “But we have confidence in our Turkish friends,” he said, adding that Iran would request more information on the matter.
Once warm Turkish-Israeli relations began to unravel in early 2009, following Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, and reached an all-time low in May 2010 when Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish ship taking part in a pro-Palestinian flotilla. Clashes between Israeli forces and activists on board resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens. Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and cut military ties and defense trade with Israel after it refused to apologize and compensate the flotilla victims.
Meanwhile, NATO chief Rasmussen also rejected the possibility of providing logistical support for proposed “humanitarian corridors” in Syrian towns and cities being hardest hit by President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
“We have no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria,” Rasmussen said, adding that he doubted NATO’s stance would change even if the U.N. provided a mandate for action.
“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.