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Turkish Bargain: Closure of NATO base for EU Full Membership

Turkey is a hard bargainer and would never give something for nothing. Even if it is something that it woun’t definetely wants. Ankara blackmails to give its to consent to the closure of NATO base in Izmir only in the context of trading full EU membership, a Turkish daily reported. A senior Turkish government official told Turkish daily Today’s Zaman under the condition of anonymity that Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s efforts to spur Turkish authorities to agree on the closure of the NATO Allied Air Component Command in İzmir failed utterly. NATO’s secretary-general had talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Monday during his four-hour visit to Ankara.

NATO is currently using its command base in İzmir to oversee its aerial mission as part of the operation against Libyan forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi, and Rasmussen plans the closure of the command base right after the operation finishes.

In October last year at a meeting in Brussels during which Turkey was represented by Davutoğlu and Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül, leaders drafted plans to reform NATO’s command structure and cut the numbers of fixed headquarters to seven from 11, trimming staff numbers to 8,500 from around 13,000. Leaders would defer the politically sensitive decision on which bases to close until June this year. Bases in Portugal, Turkey and Italy are considered most under threat. The binding decision was made at NATO’s Lisbon summit but leaders did not mention which bases are to be closed.

Earlier, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates insisted that at least one command base should remain in Turkey, Turkish diplomatic sources told reporters, noting that Gates meant NATO’s Allied Air Component Command in İzmir, the main mission of which is to prepare to conduct the full range of air operations throughout NATO’s area of operations.

NATO earlier deactivated a command center in Eskişehir, a Central Anatolia city, while restructuring its command bases, in 2009.

Erdoğan reportedly told Rasmussen that NATO’s İzmir base could only be closed after Turkey becomes a European Union member, claiming that the base is the single component that maintains Turkey’s links with trans-Atlantic space.

NATO has two command bases in Germany and two in Italy. NATO’s other bases are located in Turkey, Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Albania.

Another senior government official told Today’s Zaman that Turkey could use its authority, including its veto right, to stave off the shutdown of the İzmir command base in NATO’s June meeting.

Read Full Article in TODAY’S ZAMAN: Rasmussen fails to persuade Turkey to close İzmir base

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