NATO Approves Deployment of Patriot Missiles in Turkey


 RIA Novosti.December 4,2012.

Patriot air defense systems

Patriot air defense systems©       AFP/ BERND WUESTNECK         23:01 04/12/2012

BRUSSELS,  – NATO allies approved on Tuesday the deployment of Patriot air defense systems in Turkey along the border with Syria, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

“We stand with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters after a ministerial meeting of 28 NATO members.

“To anyone who would want to attack Turkey, we say, ‘Don’t even think about it!'” Fogh Rasmussen said as an implicit warning to Syrian authorities.

He stressed, though, that the Patriot systems would be used only for defensive purposes and would not in any way facilitate a military operation against Syria.

Several Patriot batteries will be provided by Germany, the Netherlands and, possibly, the United States, although the exact details of the deployment and the number of batteries are still to be determined by NATO.

CNN-Turk earlier reported that the missiles will be deployed within a triangular area including the provinces of Gaziantep, Malatya and Diyarbakır in southern and eastern Turkey.

Patriot air defense system  © RIA Novosti.

NATO member Turkey formally requested Patriot missiles from the military alliance after weeks of talks with NATO allies about how to shore up security on its 900-kilometer (560 mile) border.

Turkey has opened fire several times in recent months across its border with Syria in retaliation for shelling from Syria, which killed five Turkish civilians in October. It has also provided shelter to refugees fleeing the violence in Syria, and has been one of President Bashar al-Assad’s harshest critics during the almost 17-month revolt against his rule.

Tensions between Turkey and Syria flared dangerously this summer, after Damascus shot down a Turkish fighter that had violated its airspace. Turkey threatened retaliation if there was any repeat of the incident, although it admitted its plane had mistakenly strayed slightly into Syrian airspace.

Russia has repeatedly voiced concern about plans to deploy Patriot missiles on Turkey’s border with Syria, although Moscow avoided directly criticizing Turkey.

Russia believes the deployment would mean the direct involvement of NATO forces in the Syrian conflict, further undermining the already unstable situation in the region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday reassured Turkey that Syria is too busy dealing with its internal conflict to plan any attack on its neighbors.

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