Turkey joins NATO's missile defense shield

September 14, 2011 - 9:10 AM

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — An early warning radar will be stationed in Turkey's southeast as part of NATO's missile defense system, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The system is aimed at countering ballistic missile threats from Turkey's neighbor Iran, which last week warned Turkey that deployment of the radar at the military installation would escalate regional tensions. Turkey insists the shield is not targeting a particular country and the ministry statement made no mention of Iran.

Turkey agreed to host the radar in September in the framework of the NATO missile defense architecture, saying it would strengthen both its own and NATO's defense capacities.

"In this context, the site surveys and relevant legal arrangements have also been finalized, and accordingly a military installation in Kurecik has been designated as the radar site," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Selcuk Unal said. "That installation was used in the past for similar purposes."

Kurecik in Malatya province lies some 700 kilometers (435 miles) west of the Iranian border.

In September, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said the United States hopes to have the radar deployed there by the end of the year.

NATO members agreed to an anti-missile system over Europe to protect against Iranian ballistic missiles at a summit in Lisbon, Portugal, last year. A compromise not to pinpoint Iran was reached with Turkey, which had threatened to block the deal if its neighbor was explicitly named as a threat.

Under the NATO plans, a limited system of U.S. anti-missile interceptors and radars already planned for Europe — to include interceptors in Romania and Poland as well as the radar in Turkey — would be linked to expanded European-owned missile defenses. That would create a broad system that protects every NATO country against medium-range missile attack.