with Sabri Ergen, Head of Counter Terrorism Department, ESC about terrrorism and NATO priorities
Q: Hello Mr. (Sabri) Ergen. Thank you for sparing the time to come here. Firstly, could you tell us how long you have been working at NATO? What exactly is your mission at NATO?
Sabri Ergen: Thank you. Well, I have been Head of Counter-Terrorism Section for the last eighteen months. Before that I worked at the Defence Planning Division. I have been working for NATO for a total of seven years. I am a member of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, so I’ll return to the Ministry upon completion of my mission here.
Q: Do you think it is important for a Turkish citizen to hold a position of responsibility over such issues in an organisation like NATO?
Sabri Ergen:: Fighting against terrorism is one of the priorities of Turkey of course and I am proud of being Head of the Counter-Terrorism Section. However, I’d like to add that we, the International Staff, are not working for Turkey alone; we are working for all NATO members. Nevertheless, I am sure that the experience I have on the subject as a Turkish citizen has played a role in my success at this post.
Q: We are commemorating the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks this year. What do you think is the significance of an intergovernmental organisation like NATO focusing on terrorism?
Sabri Ergen: The treacherous attacks we witnessed on September 11, 2001 were not the first, nor will they be the last. The 9/11 attacks have come to represent the ugly face of terrorism at an international level. Due to the scope of the attack itself, and its organization, the damage it caused and … the number of civilian victims was immense. Immediately after the attacks, many decisions were taken in the United Nations at the international level. NATO, for its part, activated Article 5 on collective defense. NATO’s contribution to this international fight against terrorism can be considered at three levels:
First, as a political organization NATO has conducted consultations. These consultations can be converted into concrete decisions and activities.
Secondly, NATO has special military and civilian capabilities at its disposal, which can be used.
Thirdly, NATO has a broad network of partnerships. In cooperation with its Partners, NATO can implement UN resolutions.
Q: In your opinion, how has NATO’s contribution to the fight against terrorism evolved over time? That is to say, what has been achieved in the last ten years and what further steps should NATO take in the future?
Sabri Ergen:We created the Counter-Terrorism Section, building upon previous work undertaken by NATO. However, there was a shortcoming: we had put together an organization but the conceptual work, that is, a political document was missing. At present, work is underway to finish the political document by the next summit meeting. Of course NATO’s efforts on the subject can be traced back to 2001. We sent AWACS to the US in accordance with the decisions taken on September 12, 2001; NATO ships began patrolling the Mediterranean; several consultations were held. NATO employed various other capabilities as well. Firstly, Allies began work on technology in 2005. Efforts are ongoing on technology with regard to landmines and surface-to-air missiles.
We are adapting various other capabilities to counter-terrorism activities. One of them is the capability to counter chemical, radiological and biological attacks. Adaptation of these capabilities began in the Prague Summit in 2002.
In fact, Prague Summit has been one of the most important steps in this direction. It has been an important stage in the development and adaptation of our capabilities against conventional and nonconventional threats. We are specifically focusing on adapting our capabilities against non-conventional threats, and will continue doing so. Finally, we are working on a political document in line with the directives given to us by the Heads of State and Government in the 2010 Lisbon Summit. When this document is completed, we will be able to carry out our responsibilities in a more focused fashion.
Q: Counter-terrorism efforts involve a wide variety of activities. Which of these activities does Turkey participate in or contribute to?
Sabri Ergen: Of course Turkey has accrued invaluable knowledge and experience about counter terrorism, which NATO is benefiting from. It is not possible to list them all, but to summarize: firstly, our contribution to patrolling the Mediterranean as part of a counter-terrorism operation is of great significance.
Moreover, the Turkish General Staff has established a counter-terrorism center of excellence in Ankara
Not only the Turkish General Staff and military authorities but Turkish National Police is also involved in all these efforts. Turkish International Academy against Drugs and Organized Crime (TADOC) has been training the border police in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Turkey has been participating in several NATO projects on technology development and scientific research, making significant contributions.
Q: How do NATO’s counter-terrorism activities affect Turkey’s concerns regarding terrorism?
Sabri Ergen: That’s an important question. The general perception of the Turkish public is that NATO and the Allies do not really understand Turkey and that their approach is not sufficiently sensitive. Of course, we cannot expect all 28 members of the Alliance to share the same understanding. However, with Turkey’s contributions, 1999 Strategic Concept defined terrorism as a risk.
Now in the 2010 Strategic Concept terrorism is classified as a threat.
All these indicate that we have indeed come a long way. I believe my country will sustain her efforts patiently and persistently and will see their benefits. Obviously, NATO’s enhancing its own capabilities is in the interest of Turkey as well.
Q: What is Turkey’s part in the structuring of counter terrorism and policies in general?
Sabri Ergen: As a full member of NATO, Turkey has a voice in every decision of the Alliance. Yet in counter-terrorism, a relatively new topic for NATO, we cannot expect all NATO members to have a common opinion. Turkey will continue to voice her opinions patiently and persistently and, I believe, will get good results.
Q: Thank you Mr. Ergen for taking the time.
Sabri Ergen: Thank you.