Northern Watch, EDI Fill Rumsfeld's Turkish Visit
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
ANKARA, Turkey, Jun. 5, 2001 Bilateral talks with Turkish leaders ranging from Operation Northern Watch to the European Defense Initiative topped U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld calendar here June 4.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld meets with U.S. troops who support Operation Northern Watch at Incirlik Air Base, Adana, Turkey. Rumsfeld's visit June 4, 2001, was part of a weeklong trip to Europe. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Rumsfeld met in the morning with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, National Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu, and Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, deputy defense chief.
As a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and having served a previous term as secretary of defense, Rumsfeld noted his respect for Turkey, its role in the Atlantic Alliance and its long-standing friendship with the United States.
Turkey has been host to U.S. and British fliers engaged in Northern Watch, the enforcement of a no-fly zone that contains Saddam Hussein's air activities in northern Iraq, Rumsfeld said.
"We appreciate and value the very fine cooperative arrangement we have (with Turkey) in respect to Operation Northern Watch and the efforts to assure that the regime in Iraq isn't engaging in aggressive behavior against its neighbors," he said.
Rumsfeld said he and Turkish leaders also "had very good discussions" about the European Union's European Defense Initiative, which would create a rapid reaction force of up to 60,000 military troops.
Turkey has sought membership for years in the 15-nation European Union, but to date it has been unsuccessful. EU is composed of Austria, Finland, Ireland, Sweden, and 11 NATO members -- Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and United Kingdom. The seven other NATO allies not in the EU are Canada, Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Poland and the United States.
Members of the NATO alliance "have to be very attentive to see that new concepts that come along are managed and handled in a way that strengthen NATO," Rumsfeld said. "That's the reason that the United States has felt from the outset that the European Defense Initiative should add capability to NATO.
"The planning mechanism should be embedded in NATO so there is full transparency," he said. "Activities should be arranged in a way that NATO has a right of first refusal."
Rumsfeld reiterated that any changes affecting NATO should "be watched to see they do evolve in a way that maintains the important strength of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization."
In the afternoon, the secretary flew to Incirlik, in the southcentral Turkish coast city of Adana, to meet U.S. and other coalition troops taking part in Northern Watch. He reassured them Northern Watch is of "great importance."
"You are helping to contain Iraq and preventing them from attacking their neighbors and menacing the Kurds in Northern Iraq and threatening vital security interests," Rumsfeld said to an aircraft hangar full of troops.
"Yours is truly noble work," he said. "You wake up each morning and you voluntarily offer to put your lives at risk to contain aggression so that the people of this troubled region, as well as the citizens back home, can go about their days in peace and freedom.
"The American people appreciate the courage and the dedication that you bring to this mission, and they thank you," Rumsfeld said.
Turkey is the first stop in the secretary's weeklong trip to Europe. After Incirlik, he flew to Kiev, Ukraine. He's also slated to visit the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Greece, Belgium, and Finland. He is expected to return to Washington June 9.