Turkey has imposed hurdles to Nato's planned anti-ballistic missile shield in Europe by demanding proof that the system would not exclusively target Iran. The development raised further concerns that Turkish foreign policy was tilting outside the sphere of the Western alliance towards alignment with its eastern neighbour. A Turkish official said Ahmed Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, had opened "negotiations" on the targeting of the missiles at a preliminary meeting in Brussels last week. Turkey said it does not want the system to exclusively target any neighbouring country. "Within this frame, we do not lean towards the idea of defining countries like Iran, Syria and Russia as threats," a foreign ministry official said. "The minister has conveyed our opinion on the subject."
Nato's policy of operating by consensus would mean that a formal Turkish objection would scupper the US project to place anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. Turkey's Islamic-based ruling party has made close ties with Tehran a foreign policy priority even as Iran wages a bitter confrontation with world powers over its programme to develop nuclear weapons. Iran's belligerent foreign policy and its development of missiles capable of hitting Israel and parts of southern Europe has alarmed Western defence strategists. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato's Secretary General, has demanded members make a decision to proceed with the shield at a meeting of the alliance in Lisbon in November. Turkey defied its alliance partners to vote against a UN Security Council resolution tightening sanctions on Iran in May.