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An early-warning radar station, part of the Nato anti-missile radar system deployed in the Anatolian province of Turkey, has been activated to begin surveillance operations, a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman has revealed.

A small number of US troops were deployed to run the US-developed AN/TPY-2 (X-band) radar system at the Kurecik military base in Malatya in December 2011. The base commander will be a high-ranking Turkish Army official from the Nato headquarters in Germany, as per an agreement reached between the parties.

The AN/TPY-2 is a high-resolution, X-band class, phased array radar designed to provide early warning of ballistic missile threats coming from outside Europe. The early-warning radar, designed to intercept medium-range missiles at very high altitudes, has been deployed to protect Israel against potential attacks, Turkish People’s Republican Party leader Kemal Kilichoglu said.

Members of the US-led Nato European anti-missile defence (AMD) shield that agreed to deploy parts of the system include Portugal, Poland, Romania and Spain. Turkey’s decision to deploy the radar, though strongly opposed by Iran, was reiterated by the Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who said that it was "a purely defensive system against any ballistic threat".

Russia has long opposed the deployment of a missile shield, claiming that it will denude its own strike capabilities, and has sought legally binding guarantees from the US and Nato that the AMD will not target Russian strategic nuclear assets. However, Nato refused to sign a written guarantee insisting that the anti-missile shield is intended to prevent potential Iranian missile threats and does not target Russia.

Russia has also warned that failure to reach an agreement on the missile shield will lead to the deployment of advanced offensive weapon systems to counter any future US missile deployments in Europe. The US hopes to reach a deal with Russia for the deployment of the ballistic missile shield in Europe by the end of 2012.

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By GlobalData