Today's Zaman
March 11 2010

The commander of a NATO force said on Wednesday that Turkey was the
entire arc of the Islamic world.

US admiral James Stavridis, the commander of the NATO Supreme Allied
Commander Europe (SACEUR), said that he believed Turkey was an
extremely important state geopolitically.

"It is a hinge state between Europe and the Levant and South Asia and
indeed the entire arc of the Islamic world," Stavridis said during
a US House of Representatives session in Washington D.C.

Stavridis defined the presence of Turkey in NATO as extremely
important, and said he thought was very helpful in maintaining an
orientation of Turkey toward and with the West.

The admiral said as the only Islamic nation in NATO, Turkey had
been extremely helpful in assisting all of the other nations in
understanding the cultural mores.

Stavridis said Turkey was a big, muscular country, with a strong
standing army and a very capable military.

"We have learned a great deal and have drawn on their active support,"
Stavridis said.

Stavridis said the Turks today had 1,800 troops in Afghanistan doing
exceptionally good work, really across a wide spectrum of missions
in the country.

The admiral said they were working with Turkey on intelligence and
information sharing along their borders, working across that border
with Iraq.

Stavridis said Ray Odierno, the commanding general of US troops in
Iraq, had been very engaged in that issue.

Also, Stavridis counted Turkey's Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker
Basbug as his close friend, an interlocutor who gave him good advice
on how they should be approaching and working in the Islamic world.

Stavridis said the protocols signed by Turkey and Armenia were awaiting
approval by legislative bodies.

"I think it would be an extremely important step, there are several
of these so-called frozen conflicts in Europe," Stavridis said.

Stavridis said a step forward between those two nations, he thought,
would also serve as a very good example, as other types of these
issues were worked through for example in the Balkans.

The admiral said his grandparents were born in Turkey, and they were
of Greek descent and emigrated there to the United States.

"It's an extremely complex region of the world, and whenever these
nations can find common ground and move beyond the disputes and the
anger and the warfare of the past, that is an extremely salutary step
really for all the Europe but certainly for the nations involved,"
Stavridis said.

Admiral Stavridis is a 1976 graduate of the US Naval Academy and a
native of South Florida.

>>From 2002-2004, Admiral Stavridis commanded Enterprise Carrier
Strike Group, conducting combat operations in the Arabian Gulf in
support of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

In mid-2009 Admiral Stavridis was appointed as the Supreme Commander
Allied Powers Europe.