Turkey is not platform for attacking Iran – Turkish FM

Turkey and Iran have shared a peaceful border for centuries.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu underlined that his country will not allow the NATO to use its territory to strike Iran.

Davutoglu made the remarks during a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.

He said that Turkey has never cooperated with those who wanted to harm its neighboring countries like Russia, Iran or Syria.

Iran-Turkey border has always been a border of peace, and it will continue to be so, he added.

Noting that he discussed Iran and Syria issues with Lavrov, Davutoglu said that Turkey’s position with Russia was very similar in Iran issue, adding that talks on Iran’s nuclear program should resume rapidly.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia and Turkey had almost the same position on Iran and Russia wanted this issue to be solved through diplomatic means.

Moscow believes that Iran’s nuclear problem can be solved only diplomatically and politically, he added.

Russia wants the soonest resumption of the talks between Iran and the Group 5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) and Iran.

Israel and its close ally the United States accuse Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Both Washington and Tel Aviv possess advanced weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear warheads.

Iran vehemently denies the charges, insisting that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Iran has, in return, warned that it would target Israel and its worldwide interests in case it comes under attack by the Tel Aviv.

The United States has also always stressed that military action is a main option for the White House to deter Iran’s progress in the field of nuclear technology.

Iran has warned it could close the strategic Strait of Hormuz if it became the target of a military attack over its nuclear program.

Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the strategic Persian Gulf waterway, is a major oil shipping route.

Serial Production Started in Key Weapon Programs

Turkey's nationally developed UMTAS anti-tank missiles and Cirit laser-guided rockets on display at a military exhibition in Istanbul.

The head of the under-secretariat for the defense industry, Murad Bayar, has outlined Turkey’s armaments objectives in coming years. This year, Turkey plans to finish tests on several national weapons systems that have been developed and move to the serial production phase. In the next stage, building on that momentum, Turkey plans to increase its arms exports as well as reduce its reliance on imports (Anadolu Ajansi, January 23).

During the past decade, Turkey has embarked on ambitious programs to reduce its dependence on external sources for the procurement needs of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF), the second largest army in NATO. On the one hand, through stringent rules on procurement tenders, Ankara wanted to ensure that domestic firms will take part in the production of imported weapons systems, as well as enabling technology transfers. On the other hand, building on the accumulation of knowledge gained from these joint projects and the assistance and subsidies provided to the domestic arms industry and R&D activities, Turkey has been working to develop several “national” weapons systems. So far, Ankara’s ambitious national arms projects included the development of a national warship, main battle tank, attack helicopter, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and an infantry rifle.

Turkey has been cooperating with Italy’s Augusta-Westland on an attack helicopter project, which is aimed at resolving the Turkish army’s deficiencies in its fight against the PKK. Earlier, a prototype of this helicopter was developed, which is going through flight and weapons systems tests (EDM, September 29, 2009). Turkey is proud of the attack helicopter deal and sees it almost as an advertisement for its recent national projects. Turkey obtained the sole production license from Italy and introduced the necessary modifications, in order that it meets the specific operational needs of its army in mountainous terrain. Moreover, reflecting its self-confidence in indigenous technological abilities, the electronic systems and the software of the helicopter will be developed in Turkey, meaning it will have full control over the platform’s operation. The weapons installed on the helicopter will also come from national weapons developed domestically in recent years, including Cirit laser-guided rocket systems.

Bayar announced that they are planning to finish firing tests and start the first deliveries to the TAF this year, and complete the delivery of 51 helicopters in the coming years. Bayar also noted that once this platform is added to TAF’s inventory, it will have good marketing prospects. This system will be in demand, Bayar believes, especially in countries that are currently fighting terrorism, given that Turkey developed it with such considerations in mind. Several Middle Eastern countries are believed to be considering ATAK. After successfully passing the flight tests in summer 2011, ATAK has also been invited to submit its bid to a procurement tender in South Korea (Sabah, September 25, 2011).

Another major project is the main battle tank ALTAY, developed in partnership with South Korea’s Rotem (EDM, August 7, 2008). This project seeks to increase the TAF’s firepower in conventional warfare through the procurement of 250 third generation main battle tanks. Currently, ALTAY is in its design phase and the initial deliveries are expected to start from 2013. Bayar noted that this year they plan to develop the first prototype and start the necessary tests.

Turkey also has been working on another ambitious project to bolster its surveillance and intelligence gathering capabilities. In need of actionable intelligence in its fight against the PKK, Turkey has relied on the United States and Israel to either lease or buy UAVs. This cooperation, however, proved difficult to sustain given the tensions encountered in its bilateral relations with Israel and occasionally the US. Turkey has launched an indigenous medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV system program that will initially meet the TAF’s reconnaissance requirements, and later a modified version with combat capability will be developed. The prototypes are going through several tests. Following the maturity tests, Bayar expect the five prototypes to be put into operation and their serial production will start. Ankara sees this project also as a sign of prestige, as it will join the few nations with this technology and eventually develop the potential to export it. Similarly, Bayar expects that the first indigenous satellite developed by Turkey, the Gokturk-2, will be launched into space this year.

Another project has been the development of a national infantry rifle. Turkey is currently conducting tests on a rifle designed and developed domestically, and anticipates moving to the mass production stage this year. The country has also been running a national warship program, MILGEM, to develop a littoral combat capacity. Under the project, the Turkish Navy will be supplied with eight corvettes and four frigates, as well as exploring possibilities for exports. The first corvette has already been delivered, while the second is undergoing tests.

Recently, Ankara announced plans to develop a national fighter jet. Bayar described it as a long term objective, which would mark Turkey’s elevation to a higher class in arms producing countries. Turkey is currently considering this option and will soon initiate two-year long feasibility studies. If the project is deemed feasible, further work will be authorized to develop the first prototype in ten years’ time and serial production in the following decade. Turkey has also announced another ambitious program to develop long-range missiles with a range of up to 2,500 km (www.trt.net.tr, January 13).

Although Turkey remains a major arms importer, through these programs it is now able to procure slightly more than half of its needs from domestic sources. Currently, Turkey is producing short range missiles, armored vehicles and personnel carriers, training aircraft, small UAVs, etc. Especially in advanced weapons systems, Turkey remains dependent on imports, and addressing that deficiency is one of the objectives of the procurement programs. In the future, while seeking to increase the share of domestic contributions, Turkey will also work to bolster its export figures to $1 billion, from last year’s $800 million. Overall, two principles will underpin Turkey’s defense industry policies, as underlined by Bayar: depth, i.e., increasing the national contributions in the new platforms through the development of sub-systems; and sustainability, or, building a viable arms industry that can sustain mass production at competitive prices.

By Saban Kardas

Turkey awaits key counterterrorism weapons

Turkey's T129 attack helicopter during flight tests.

The Turkish military is slated to acquire several weapons systems to use against terrorists from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) this year, one senior procurement official said last week.
Italy’s AgustaWestland and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) have been collaborating on building the T-129 attack helicopter, a Turkish version of the company’s A129 Mangusta International.

AgustaWestland is scheduled to deliver the first nine of a planned 59 helicopters to the military toward the end of 2012.

Turkish authorities then will assemble the required weapons systems on the platforms, and the nine helicopter gunships are expected to enter service in 2013, the official said.

Separately, the United States is expected to deliver three AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters early this year. The U.S. Congress approved the sale of these three choppers, worth $125 million, toward the end of 2012.

Additionally, TAI, Turkey’s state-owned aerospace powerhouse, is scheduled to deliver to the military three Anka Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles in 2012, to be used for reconnaissance purposes, the official said.

Turkey is already operating nine Israeli-made Heron MALE drones against the PKK. The United States has also deployed another four RQ-1 Predator MALE drones at Turkey’s southern İncirlik airbase to fly over PKK camps in northern Iraq and provide the Turkish military intelligence.

Additionally Turkey has requested to buy four RQ-1 Predator reconnaissance drones and two armed MQ-1 Reapers, but the U.S. has not responded to the request.

In addition to its MALE drone capabilities, the Turkish military operates scores of smaller drones.

Unmanned vehicles

TAI’s efforts to develop and produce the Anka have seen a delay of several years. “Attack helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles are among the most effective weapons against terrorists, and we will have an abundance of these weapons soon,” said one security official.

The PKK this year intensified terrorist attacks against Turkish military and civilian targets, causing a public outrage.

Separately, the U.S. Boeing is expected to deliver the first of a planned four spy planes to the Turkish Air Force in 2012. The program to manufacture the four Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft is worth more than $1.6 billion and is behind schedule a few years.

The Defense Industry Executive Committee, Turkey’s highest procurement agency, is also expected to select a foreign company in Turkey’s $4 billion long range air and missile defense system program. Among the candidates competing to build an air and missile defense system with Turkish partners are U.S. companies Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, with their Patriot Air and Missile Defense System; Russian Rosoboronexport’s S-300; Chinese CPMIEC’s (China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp.) HQ-9; and European Eurosam’s SAMP/T Aster 30.

The Defense Industry Executive Committee’s members include Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and Procurement Chief Murad Bayar.

Finally, the committee would select a national commercial shipyard which will manufacture the third through the eighth of the Milgem national corvettes. The first two corvettes were built at a military shipyard. The first corvette, the TCG Heybeliada, already has entered service in the Navy, and the second, the TCG Büyükada, has been put to sea for tests.

HDN

Iran threatens to target Turkey if attacked by NATO

Iran will target NATO’s missile defense installations in Turkey if the U.S. or Israel attacks the Islamic Republic, a senior commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said Saturday.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guards’ aerospace division, said the warning is part of a new defense strategy to counter what he described as an increase in threats from the U.S. and Israel.

Tensions have been rising between Iran and the West since the release of a report earlier this month by the International Atomic Energy Agency that said for the first time that Tehran was suspected of conducting secret experiments whose sole purpose was the development of nuclear arms.

The U.S. and its Western allies suspect Iran of trying to produce atomic weapons, and Israel, which views Tehran as an existential threat, has warned of a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear program. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes.

“Should we be threatened, we will target NATO’s missile defense shield in Turkey and then hit the next targets,” the semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted Hajizadeh as saying.

Tehran says NATO’s early warning radar station in Turkey is meant to protect Israel against Iranian missile attacks if a war breaks out with the Jewish state. Ankara agreed to host the radar in September as part of NATO’s missile defense system aimed at countering ballistic missile threats from neighboring Iran.

A military installation in the Turkish town of Kurecik, some 435 miles (700 kilometers) west of the Iranian border, has been designated as the radar site, according to Turkish government officials.

Hajizadeh said the United States also plans to install similar stations in Arab states south of Iran. He said increasing threats has made Iran alter its military defense strategy.

“Based on orders from the exalted commander in chief, we will respond to threats with threats,” he was quoted as saying.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, is also commander in chief of Iran’s armed forces.

Also Saturday, the chief of Iran’s elite Quds Force said he doesn’t fear assassination and is ready for “martyrdom.” He warned Washington of serious consequences if it does not stop threatening the Islamic Republic.

The comments by Quds Force commander Brig. Gen. Ghassem Soleimani were published in several Iranian newspapers. The Quds Force is the special foreign operations unit of the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, and Soleimani is a key figure in Iran’s military establishment but rarely speaks in public.

“Oh, God, bestow upon me martyrdom in Your path by the hands of enemies … The U.S. must know that when a glass is broken, it becomes sharper,” he told a gathering of militiamen in the southeastern Iranian town of Kerman.

Tensions have increased in recent weeks between Iran and the U.S., with several American neoconservatives urging the Obama administration to use covert action against Iran and kill some of its top officials, including Soleimani.

The force has been accused by the Americans of involvement in an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Two men, including an alleged member of Iran’s Quds Force, have been charged in New York federal court in the case.

Iran has dismissed the American claims as a “foolish plot”, saying U.S. officials have offered no proof.

Associated Press

Armenia protocols ‘left to dust’ on the shelves

Exactly two years ago today, landmark protocols aimed at normalizing Turkey-Armenia relations were signed in Zurich, Switzerland. The time that has passed between then and now, however, have proved among the toughest for diplomacy in the region, and academics on both sides agree that a chance has been missed.

Armenian Foreign Minister Edouard Nalbandia (2nd L) and Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, (2nd R) shake hands while signing landmark protocols. AP photo.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edouard Nalbandia (2nd L) and Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, (2nd R) shake hands while signing landmark protocols. AP photo.

According to Armenian scholar Yervand Bozoyan, the fault lies squarely on the Turkish side.

“The protocols are unlikely to come to the agenda anytime soon,” Bozoyan said in a recent interview. “For Turkey, the Karabakh issue is a precondition, but Armenia is for dialogue without such preconditions.”

The protocols were signed on Oct. 10, 2009 by Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu. Both parliaments, however, failed to ratify the accord. Alexander Isgandarian of the Caucasus Institute agreed with Bozoyan, criticizing Turkey for the 1993 move to close borders with Armenia. The failure of the protocol to pass through parliaments has also created disappointment on the Turkish side.

“At the time of the signing ceremony, I thought this was part of a pre-agreed plan,” said İlter Turan, an international relations academic from the Istanbul Bilgi University. “But it seems that either there was no such plan, or other steps of the plan failed to follow.”

“We’re back at square one,” said Hagop Çakıryan, an Armenian journalist.

“Ankara’s agenda is full of items more important that relations with Armenia,” Çakıryan said. “Turkey has set its gaze toward the Middle East, aiming to be a regional power. There are also the Kurdish and Cyprus issues and strained ties with Israel. In such a climate, Turkey won’t be interested in the protocols anymore.”

If Turkey wishes to become a leader in the Caucasus, it cannot do this “if it excludes Armenia,” according to Çakıryan.

Daily News columnist Semih İdiz was also pessimistic, saying that the protocols “are left to dust on the shelves.” However, he disagreed with the “shift of focus” perspective, pointing to the Azerbaijan factor as the real reason.

According to İdiz, what blocked the process was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s May 2009 speech at the parliament in Baku, in which he promised there would be no progress regarding the protocols if the Nagorno-Karabakh issue remained unresolved.

“Thus, a solution requires a Karabakh progress by the Minsk Group,” İdiz said. “And such a progress does not seem possible [for now].”

Vercihan Ziflioğlu and Sevim Songün contributed to this report.

Sunday, October 9, 2011
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News

Turkey’s T-129 attack helicopter prototype P6 maiden flight completes successfully

The first Turkish-built prototype of the T129 attack helicopter during flight tests over the Akinci airfield, Ankara.

The first flight, conducted by Turkish Aerospace Industries’ (TAI) test pilots, of the T129 “P6” prototype helicopter has timely and successfully been completed at TAI’s facilities in Akıncı, Ankara, the company said today  

The ATAK Program was initiated with the aim to meet the Attack/Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter requirements of the Turkish Land Forces Command (TLF) by the integration of high-tech avionics equipment, hardware and software being developed ‘in-house’ by Turkey.  

The first flight of the P6 prototype marks an important milestone in the ATAK Program and is the first of three T129 prototypes which are being assembled in Turkey.

The helicopter is based on the Agusta Westland A129 Mongoose which has been the mainstay of the Italian army and has been operational and battle-proven in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The T-129 ATAK is an enhanced version of the Italian-built A129, and its development is now the responsibility of TAI, with AgustaWestland as the primary partner.

 Prior Crash

The original prototype being built in Italy crashed in March 2010 during a test flight, leaving its Italian test pilot and its test engineer needing hospital treatment for minor injuries.

Turkey originally planned to order 51 A129s with 40 options back in 2007 but the following year Turkey undertook to fully build the platform.

Under the agreement, TAI has integrated an indigenous mission computer, avionics, weapons systems, self-protection suites and the helmet-mounting cuing systems. TUSAS Engine Industries (TEI) is manufacturing the LHTEC CTS800-4N engines under licence. Under the agreement, Turkey has full marketing and intellectual property rights for the T-129 platform. There are also no restrictions imposed on Turkey for the export or transfer of the platform to third countries other than Italy and the UK.

New Turkish charter to be a model for region

Turkey’s new constitution will set a model for regional and other countries that seek the “best-ever charter highlighting universal values of democracy, human rights and rule of law,” according to a senior governmental official.

“I believe our new constitution, which will be the newest charter based on universal principles, will make an overwhelming impression on the world. If you make the best (constitution), it will of course draw attention from countries that are seeking the best for them,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview Wednesday. Bozdağ, however, said their intention was not to become a sample case for regional countries whose citizens have revolted for more democratic regimes.

Almost all political parties, civil society organizations as well as universities agree on the need to rewrite the current charter, which was made by the military junta in 1982, two years after a coup.

“We are not making this constitution to be praised by other countries. That would undermine the whole process. Our motto is to make the best and most modern constitution for our own people by emphasizing democratic requirements, freedoms and human rights,” he said. Recalling that they were also analyzing the constitution of advanced democracies, Bozdağ said, “Those who want to take our new constitution as a sample are free to analyze it, because we believe it’s going to be a model constitution.”

For the deputy prime minister, who will likely play a key role in the constitution-making process, the most important goal is consensus among the political parties as well as civil society and universities. “I hope Turkey will achieve its new constitution with the broadest consensus possible, based on not minimum common points but on maximum common points,” he said.

Bozdağ said he believes there would be a few articles that would cause a debate between the political parties represented in Parliament. “We are ready to discuss everything at the table. Prejudices or pre-conditions would hurt the process, thus we call on all parties to come to the table without conditions,” he said. One of the potential points of discussion in the making of the constitution is the removal of the first three articles, which shape the nature of the republic. Pro-Kurdish politicians have expressed their intention to ask for the three articles to be removed and replaced with items that highlight the status of the Turkish citizens with Kurdish descent. Bozdağ said his party prefers for these articles to remain but said, “We are ready to discuss any proposal regarding these items.”

‘Doves not hawks’

Another important point Bozdağ made was on the composition of the parliamentary commission that will be set after Oct. 1, which will be the main body to draft the charter. “It’s extremely important who the parties nominate for this commission. It would be very useful if the parties would send reconciliatory personalities, figures who are capable of compromise. They would ease the working conditions of the commission and shorten the length of work,” he said.

At the same time, Bozdağ added, the members of this commission should also be able to convince their own party fellows and influence public opinion. “It’s going to be a three-way work.”

Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek is expected to call on parties represented at the Parliament to nominate two people to carry out constitutional work after Oct.1.

Bozdağ also talked about the preparations of his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, for the new charter. “We have to do our homework before sitting at the table. All parties should do it in order to be fully ready for the process,” he said.

They are writing a text indicating the framework of the AKP’s principles that will be sought in the new constitution, Bozdağ said. “For example, we will on the one hand emphasize universal human rights and democratic values and on the other hand we will also seek way to assure the implementation of these rights, unlike the current charter which obstructs accomplishment of the rights.”

The new constitution is an order to us from the people who voted for parties on June 12 elections, Bozdağ said. “That’s why this Parliament has a unique mission to write the new constitution.”

HDN

FNSS takes aim at Azerbaijani armor projects

FNSS Pars 8x8 Armored Personnel Carrier

Turkey’s FNSS Defence Systems takes interest in the project of modernization of armored personnel carriers in Azerbaijan.

The company’s CEO Nail Kurt said his company could take part in production of new tracked vehicles on the basis of written-off T-55 tanks, but they have not received invitation from Azerbaijan yet.

According to the Turkish company’s official, Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry is interested in purchasing different armored vehicles produced by FNSS, including newly-produced Pars, which was presented to the Azerbaijani defense minister at the defense industry exhibition in UAE early this year.

Nail Kurt said this armored vehicle was provided with the most developed systems. It has larger potential than ZTR for personnel carrier and weapon installation, as well as mine-protection and ballistic defense systems.

Well-known defence industry company BAE Systems is FNSS shareholder. FNSS produced about 3000 transport means, including armored carriers so far and 2000 of those vehicles are used by the Turkish armed forces. The company’s products are also used by UAE, Malaysia and the Philippines. FNSS modernized more than 400 transport means of the Saudi Arabian armed forces and is expected to develop this project for modernization of 300 more vehicles.

APA 

US asks for action from Turkey for Armenian reconciliation

The United States is pressing Ankara to move toward rapprochement with Yerevan following the collapse of talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan last month to discuss the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

“The time is right for normalization. Some action to get the process moving, to give [it] momentum would be fine,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Turkish officials July 16 during a visit to Turkey.

Azerbaijan and Armenia had earlier failed to come to an agreement over the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh during a June meeting in Kazan, Russia. The U.S. was reportedly infuriated by Baku’s U-turn during the talks.

The Turkish-Armenian reconciliation process has been blocked by Azerbaijan, which indirectly threatened to stop supplying natural gas to Turkey and to give Russia preference as its main energy partner. Turkey and Armenia signed two protocols to normalize relations and to open their border, sealed since the early 1990s, but both countries failed to ratify the accords due to domestic pressure. Turkey said ratification would only be possible after Armenia and Azerbaijan reach an agreement over Nagorno-Karabakh. Hopes for a deal disappeared after Baku rejected such an agreement in Kazan and criticized Armenia’s approach.

A flashpoint of the Caucasus, the region known as Nagorno-Karabakh is a constituent part of Azerbaijan that has been occupied by Armenia since the end of 1994. While internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory, the enclave has declared itself an independent republic but is administered as a de facto part of Armenia.

With the U.S. home to a several-million-strong Armenian diaspora pressing the administration to recognize Armenian claims of genocide in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, Washington is seeking the completion of the process between Ankara and Yerevan. The top U.S. diplomat said they understood the domestic difficulties in the ratification of the protocols but hinted there could some other action to keep the momentum alive.

As reported by the Hürriyet Daily News last week, a set of confidence-building measures are planned to this end, starting with direct flights from Yerevan to the eastern province of Van, a destination for many Armenians who wish to visit an ancient Armenian church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van.

According to the Armenian press, a member of the Van Chamber of Commerce, Abdullah Tunçdemir, said the Yerevan-Van flights would begin Sept. 11 if the Van airport could be upgraded to meet international standards. Another planned measure is to open a Turkish Airlines, or THY, office in Yerevan to coordinate Armenians’ flights to the United States via Istanbul.

Such steps will, on the one hand, give a strong signal to Baku that its refusal to deal with Armenia will not stop Turkish-Armenian rapprochement; on the other hand, they will also help relieve growing pressure on the Turkish and American administrations from the Armenian diaspora.

Turkey’s move to begin flights between Van and Yerevan has drawn a reaction from Azerbaijan. “We do not interfere in the affairs of two countries but we still reserve the right to respond in the event of an infringement of the national interests of Azerbaijan,” Elman Abdullayev, the first secretary of the Azerbaijani press service MFA, told the Trend news agency in response to the possible flights.

“Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry is following the developments and will react according to the future scenario,” said Abdullayev.

 

Russia, Kyrgyzstan in Talks Over Training Base

A ground staff member directs a C-130 Hercules at Manas Air Base near Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek, February 13, 2009. Reuters photo

Russia is in talks with Kyrgyzstan to expand its military presence in the volatile central Asian nation by setting up a training center in the south, the Kyrgyz foreign minister told AFP.

“We are discussing the possibility of creating a training base in the south of Kyrgyzstan,” Ruslan Kazakbayev told AFP in an interview conducted June 24.

The training base was part of ongoing discussions to conclude an agreement under which “all of Russia’s existing military installations on our territory will be merged into one,” he said.

Russia already operates one base in Kyrgyzstan, the Kant airbase outside the capital Bishkek, as well as several other installations such as a seismic station providing data for strategic missile forces.

Moscow had been in talks about opening a second military base in Kyrgyzstan with the country’s previous administration led by Kurmanbek Bakiyev before he was ousted in a violent uprising last year.

Both the United States and Russia jostle for military influence in a region gaining in strategic importance owing to its proximity to Afghanistan.

Washington also operates a military base in Kyrgyzstan, making it the only country in the world to house both Russian and U.S. bases.

Russia lobbied for the closure of the U.S. base but Bishkek eventually agreed to keep it open after Washington more than tripled the rent paid to use Manas. Kazakbayev said the Kyrgyz government and Washington were in similar talks.

“We are also working with the U.S. government in this direction,” he said without being more specific. “I would like to stress that a decision on these issues will be made in a transparent manner and will take into account our country’s national interests.”

Under the current agreement with Washington, the Manas base, a pivotal transit hub for troops and supplies for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, will be stationed in Kyrgyzstan until 2014.

Bloody riots rocked the country last June, becoming the worst inter-ethnic clashes to hit Kyrgyzstan since the collapse of the Soviet Union and taking place two months after violent protests deposed Bakiyev.

AFP