Rasmussen: Turkey wanted to have missile defense shield
In an interview with Turkey's NTV television station on Friday, Rasmussen said the US has contributed largely to the missile defense system of NATO and the system is the most recent example of solidarity between NATO member states. He added that the details regarding the missile defense system will be discussed in Chicago, where NATO is scheduled to meet on May 20-21.
Russia and Iran object to the deployment of the early warning radar system in Turkey. Russia earlier said a NATO missile defense system could threaten its security if it develops the capability to down Russian nuclear missiles.
Recalling that Turkey played an important role as a neighbor of Russia during the Cold War era, Rasmussen said Turkey continues to play an important role currently and that the nation contributed to NATO operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya.
The NATO secretary-general further said the İzmir command base will host NATO's Land Component Command, which is currently based in Spain. He added that İzmir will be an important command base for both Turkey and NATO.
About Syria, Rasmussen said NATO does not plan any military intervention in Syria, where forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad continue to kill masses of people opposed to the regime. He noted that the demand of the Syrian people must be paid attention to regarding the issue.
He further said Afghanistan will be discussed at the meeting in Chicago and recalled that NATO expects responsibility for security to be handed over to the Afghan security forces by mid-2013 and for them to have full control by the end of 2014. He added that NATO will contribute to the training of Afghan security forces.
During a meeting with a group of Turkish journalists in Brussels on Thursday, Rasmussen, who is set to visit Turkey next week to mark the 60th anniversary of Turkey's membership in NATO, praised the country's commitment to the alliance and its "crucial role," saying NATO needs "the voice of Turkey." Rasmussen's comments come amid calls from US conservative politicians and others that Turkey's membership in NATO should be questioned, especially in the aftermath of a crisis in its relations with Israel.
"I won't bring new initiatives to Ankara during my visit. I will repeat what I said previously, that irrespective of the Cyprus conflict, I think we can find pragmatic solutions that could improve the relationship," he said, noting that a past proposal he put forward for an arrangement between Turkey and the EU to pave the way for closer NATO-EU cooperation remains a "valid package," a "pragmatic proposal."
"But let's face it. The fundamental problem here is the continued dispute in Cyprus. Realistically speaking, I don't think we will see real progress in the cooperation between EU and NATO until there is a solution to the conflict in Cyprus," he stated.