Czech Republic pledges military support to Turkey

Foto: ČTK

Amid a deep crisis in NATO over plans to protect Turkey in the event of a US-led war on Iraq, the Czech Republic has expressed support for the United States and Great Britain, pledging military assistance to Turkey. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla announced the Czech Republic would back its NATO ally in case of an attack by Iraq.

Photo: CTK
Prime Minister Spidla expressed disagreement with France, Germany and Belgium who are blocking the alliance from planning pre-emptive measures to defend Turkey, the only alliance member bordering on Iraq, in the case of a US-led war against Saddam Hussein's regime. He reiterated though, that the Czech Republic's position on an attack on Iraq remained unchanged - that is the country would join the operation only with a new UN Security Council mandate.

"Under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty Turkey requested consultations and we are convinced that if a NATO member requests support, it has a right to it. We think Turkey should be granted assistance and we will use our diplomatic service and the authority of the Czech Republic in order to help."

Minister Cyril Svoboda in France, photo: CTK
The disputed NATO plan includes sending Turkey AWACS early warning planes, Patriot anti-missile batteries and units specialised in anti-biological and anti-chemical warfare. Prime Minister Spidla specified the nature of the Czech Republic's proposed assistance.

"The lower house has extended the mandate of the Czech anti-chemical unit, deployed in Kuwait as part of the 'Enduring Freedom' operation, to Turkey. Under very specific conditions, which have yet to be discussed in full, such a move could be considered."

On Thursday morning Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda reaffirmed the Czech Republic's stance after a meeting with his French counterpart Dominique de Villepin in Paris.