Central Istanbul is in lockdown.
The city is swarming with hundreds of security officials, dozens of roads are closed, the Bosphorus is teeming with warships (some just for show but others are actively patrolling the waters) and every now and then F-14s tear across the sky.
The security is not surprising given that President Bush, Tony Blair and the heads of state and other ministers from all 26 NATO member countries and a host of other partner nations are either in town or on their way here.
The NATO summit doesn’t officially open until tomorrow but our coverage is already underway. This morning we pulled off something of a coup by securing an exclusive interview with US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld.
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s on the agenda:
IRAQ: Just days before the handover of power in Iraq NATO countries are deeply divided on whether the alliance should take a more direct role in stabilising the country.
AFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan is NATO’s number one priority. Since August 2003 NATO has been leading a 6,500-strong international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, ISAF, which provides security for Kabul and the surrounding areas. In January 2004, NATO for the first time expanded its responsibility outside of Kabul by taking command of the German-led Kunduz Provincial Reconstruction Team. The Istanbul summit will announce that NATO is ready to take command of the other PRTs in Afghanistan.
BOSNIA: NATO’s mission in Bosnia, SFOR, is coming to an end. By the end of 2004 NATO will hand over its operations in Bosnia to the European Union. The Istanbul summit is expected to announce the handover to the EU and what assistance the alliance is planning to provide to the EU for its future mission in Bosnia.
KOSOVO: NATO troops have been deployed in Kosovo since the 1999 war. NATO says it wants political process inside Kosovo to move forward. In order to ensure that, NATO wants to be more fully associated with the UN mission there.
NATO PARTNERSHIPS: At this summit, NATO will again stress importance of partnerships with other, non-NATO countries. NATO wants to focus on key areas of Europe and beyond, including Caucasus and Central Asia, in order to fight terrorism and proliferation.
IMPROVEMENTS TO NATO FORCES: NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will press leaders to consider ways of avoiding the mismatch between political commitment and delivery of military resources seen in Afghanistan. NATO will also reveal a package of eight new anti-terrorism measures at the Istanbul summit.