ANKARA (AFP)—A planned Europe-wide ballistic missile shield for NATO must not be aimed at Iran and there appears to be agreement on this point, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Friday before leaving to attend the NATO summit in Lisbon.
“We are categorically opposed to have a country named (as a threat) and our request appears to have been accepted,” he told reporters before leaving Ankara.
“Turkey cannot join a project that is aimed at a specific country,” Gul said, stressing that NATO was a defensive alliance aimed at defending its members against any ballistic threat and is not an organization designed “to intimidate and threaten.”
“The project must cover all (NATO) members without exception… It will not be aimed at Iran, we said it,” the Turkish president said, adding that Ankara hoped that its request will be endorsed by other NATO allies in Lisbon.
Leaders of the 28-member NATO alliance gathered in Lisbon Friday and Saturday were to endorse plans to launch a new Europe-wide ballistic missile shield.
Diplomats said there had been intense debate in the run-up to the summit about whether Iran should be targeted as a specific menace in the public document they adopt.
Turkey is mindful of its delicate position with neighboring Iran, however, and has said it will refuse to sign up to a NATO document that names Iran as the threat in the final declaration.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters on Monday that there was “no reason to name specific countries.”
“The fact is that more than 30 countries have, or are aspiring to get missile technologies with a range sufficient to hit targets in the Euro-Atlantic area,” he said.
NATO wants to link existing or future national missile defense systems to create an umbrella that would protect all of Europe’s population and territory, at a cost of less than 200 million euros, officials say.