ANKARA, March 11 Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip
Erdogan dismissed on Friday security concerns expressed by
Israel over the launch of Turkey's first spy satellite.
"We are sending our Gokturk satellite to space in 2013. Some
people are disturbed by this. They say: 'Turkey will watch us
from space in the future'. You have been watching us for many
years, decades," Erdogan told youth party members of his ruling
AK Party, without mentioning ex-ally Israel.
Erdogan spoke after a senior Israeli defence official told
Reuters the launch of Gokturk had prompted discussions in Israel
about the viability of a U.S.-backed blackout on high-resolution
commercial photography of Israel from space.
According to Jane's Defence Weekly, Gokturk will provide
images of objects of 0.8 metres across. At present 2 metres
across is the finest grain available when it comes to pictures
of Israel, thanks mainly to U.S. legislation from the 1990s.
Relations between Turkey and Israel hit a historic low after
Israeli commandos raided a Turkish aid ship bound for the Gaza
Strip last year.
Turkey, ruled by Erdogan's Islamist-rooted government, has
demanded an apology as a condition for mending ties.
Turkish Minister of Transport Binali Yildirim told domestic
media this week Ankara did not believe concerns by other
countries were "binding".
The so-called "shutter control" over commercial satellite
cameras is anchored in an amendment to the 1997 U.S. National
Defense Authorisation Act, which banned disseminating satellite
images of Israel of a grain higher than that available from
non-American commercial sources.
The satellite will ease Turkey's reliance on U.S.
intelligence in its operations against the separatist Kurdistan
Workers Party (PKK), which launches attacks on Turkish military
targets from bases in northern Iraq.
Turkey has used U.S. intelligence to support operations
against the PKK in mountainous Iraqi Kurdistan, targeting the
guerrillas' headquarters and training facilities in cross-border
The Gokturk satellite, expected to cost around 250 million
euros ($344 million), is being developed by Turkish defence
contractor AselsanandFinmeccanica's unit Telespazio.
(Writing by Ibon Villelabeitia; Editing by Robert Woodward)