Rumsfeld Says NATO Ultimately Will Protect Turkish Ally
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2003 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today downplayed talk of a rift in NATO over Iraq, saying the alliance will ultimately work to protect Turkey should force be necessary against Saddam Hussein.
News reports indicate Belgium, France and Germany oppose aiding Turkey should there be a conflict with Iraq.
Rumsfeld said during a Pentagon press conference that Turkey could invoke Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty to get the help it has asked for. The article allows any member to ask the alliance for help if it believes it is about to be attacked.
In the meantime, "What we have to do is make sure that planning does go forward," Rumsfeld said. "Preferably within NATO, but if not, then bilaterally."
Turkey has asked for NATO Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, chemical and biological agent detection teams and Patriot missile systems. Rumsfeld noted that all three items are defensive in nature. He said Turkey deserves the help.
"Turkey is an important ally in NATO, it is a moderate Muslim state and it seems to me that those three countries taking that position prevents NATO from fulfilling its obligation to a NATO ally," he said.
The secretary said it was "unfortunate" that France, Germany and Belgium are in stark disagreement with the rest of their NATO allies. "In the event that the three stand out in the end, my guess is that the other 16 nations of NATO would form a coalition to provide that assistance," he said.
He said there have always been differences within NATO. "At the moment, what it means is that three European countries are isolated from the rest of the NATO alliance," he said.