TEHRAN (JWN and agencies)—Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused Turkey of agreeing to install an early warning system that is designed to protect Israel against Iranian missile attack if war breaks out between Iran and Israel.
“The missile defense shield is aimed at defending the Zionist regime. They don’t want to let our missiles land in the occupied territories [Israel] if one day they take action against us. That’s why they put it there,” Ahmadinejad told the Iranian nation in a televised address late Tuesday.
Turkey, a NATO member, agreed in September to deploy a NATO early warning radar system in the country’s southeast as part of the organization’s missile defense system.
Although the early warning system is designed specifically to counter the threat of missile attack from Iran, Turkey has maintained Iran has not been singled out as a threat. This is despite the fact that Iran has recently
test-fired long-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting anywhere in Europe and is trying to develop nuclear warheads for them.
A Turkish government official was quoted by the Associated Press as saying a military installation in Kurecik, some 435 miles west of the Iranian border.
Ahmadinejad said in his television address that his government has condemned Turkey’s decision to station the early warning radar system. “We told our Turkish friends that it was not a correct job [decision] they did and that it’s to their detriment,” he said. “Such shields can’t prevent the collapse of the Zionist regime.”
Turkey has close economic ties with Iran and disagrees with the US approach of imposing sanctions to block Iran’s nuclear program. It prefers finding a diplomatic resolution to the issue.
However, Turkey has lately been distancing itself from Iran’s close support of Syria, which it has criticized for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s ongoing slaughter of protesters against his regime.
Turkey’s relations with Israel have become strained ever since last year’s blockade-running incident, in which nine Turkish nationals who attacked Israeli naval commandos were killed when their ship was stopped while violating Israel’s weapons blockade on Gaza.
Despite Ahmadinejad’s assertion that Turkey was installing radar to protect Israel, the head of NATO last week expressed concern at the deterioration of relations between Turkey and Israel. In addition to animosity over the blockade incident, Turkey has become increasingly vocal in its support for the Palestinians at Israel’s expense.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called the strained relations “a matter of concern.” However, he said he does not foresee the tension turning into conflict in the Mediterranean. He praised Turkey as an indispensable member of NATO that could be “a bridge” between the West and the Arab countries now engaged in revolts.
“Obviously the tensions between Turkey and Israel are a matter of concern,” he said in an interview to The
New York Times in Brussels. “It’s a bilateral issue, NATO is not going to interfere with that,” he added, “but it is the interest of the alliance to see these tensions eased, because Turkey is a key ally and Israel is a valuable
partner for the alliance.”