ANKARA - Turkey is not likely to veto the Danish prime minister’s running for NATO secretary-general, according to Turkish officials. Turkey will continue to put pressure on Denmark to stop the Roj TV’s terrorism propaganda, they add
"If, in particular, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and other senior allies do agree on Rasmussen’s bid, then Turkey would unwillingly say yes to him in order to not harm the solidarity spirit and comfort of the alliance," officials, who wished to not be named, said yesterday. Washington had already told NATO allies it would back Rasmussen as the next secretary general, making him the strongest candidate for the key position. The current secretary general, Dutchman Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, steps down on July 31. His successor is expected to be named at the April 3 to 4 NATO summit.
Two major obstacles
According to officials, there are two important points on which Turkey’s opposition against the Danish prime minister was built. The first one was the "cartoon crisis" that erupted in 2006 when a Danish newspaper cartoon depicted the Prophet Mohammad with a bomb in his turban, which was reprinted across European media. Rasmussen refused to apologize for the cartoon, which sparked riots and attacks on Danish embassies in several Muslim states, but which Western governments defended in the name of freedom of expression.
"The number one priority of both the Obama administration and the alliance seems to be Afghanistan. With his record of humiliating the entire Muslim world, how will Rasmussen act as NATO chief to deal with the problem? Our concern is that his appearance as the NATO chief would revive similar reactions," officials said.
In fact, Turkey’s concern has also been shared by some NATO countries like Spain, Norway, Belgium and Luxembourg. The common point these countries share is the fact that 80 percent of the NATO's out-of-area operations are held in the regions where the Muslim population is dominant.
The second point Turkey takes issue to is Kopenhag’s refusal to block the broadcast of Roj TV, known as the mouthpiece of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Despite Turkey’s insistent calls and diplomatic demarches, the Danish governments refused to forbid the Roj TV’s broadcast on the grounds of freedom of speech.
"A globally accepted fact is that the fight against terrorism also foresees stopping their means of propaganda and financing. Turkey will sure continue to put pressure on Denmark to this end," said officials.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan walked out of a press conference in Denmark a couple of years ago upon a question from a Roj TV reporter. Erdoğan was also one of the most vocal leaders in slamming the Danish government over the cartoon crisis. Busy with local elections’ rallies, Erdoğan has not commented on Rasmussen’s nomination for the post. "Turkey will have its eye on him all the time during his tenure if elected. We’ll closely follow how he will handle all the issues and what he can do to establish a solid NATO-EU relationship where Turkey is not sidetracked," officials said.