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Monday, August 30, 2010     GET REAL

U.S., Turkey in dispute over military personnel

WASHINGTON — Turkey and the United States have failed to resolve a dispute over American military personnel in the Middle East state.


A State Department report said the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has refused to grant diplomatic immunity to U.S. military personnel in Turkey. They said the U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation, located in a Turkish military base in Istanbul, has been operating without diplomatic status.

"ODC employees and family members work and live in a teeming metropolis where diplomatic protections and immunities are critical for their well being," the report, titled "Report of Inspection. Embassy, Ankara, Turkey," said.

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The report, termed "sensitive but unclassified," said Turkey has based its refusal to grant diplomatic status to the American military personnel to a 1954 NATO treaty. Turkey was said to have been the only country that refused diplomatic status for ODC, which has been monitoring goods that enter Turkey from neighboring Iran and Syria.

"This Turkish position has as much as 25 years of precedent, and will not be easily altered," the report said.

In April 2009, the U.S. embassy in Ankara reviewed and revalidated the memorandum of understanding with the Defense Department regarding military personnel in Turkey. The current MoU asserted that ODC was not under the security responsibility of the ambassador.

So far, the State Department has not sought to change the status of ODC members to that of diplomats. The report said the change in status was crucial to ODC employees and their families.

"Embassy Ankara should develop and implement a plan to convince Turkish authorities that the Office of Defense Cooperation employees and dependents in Turkey be entitled to diplomatic status under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations rather than under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Status of Forces Agreement of 1954," the report said.

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