NATO chief confirms Scud launch by Syria
EPA PhotoThe recent use of scud missiles by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime highlights the “need for effective defense and protection” of Turkey, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said, after Russia claimed that the planned deployment of Patriot batteries in Turkey was likely to be directed against Iran.
The Syrian regime recently fired Scud-type missiles against rebel forces in what Rasmussen on Dec. 21 said was an act of “desperation,” Agence France-Presse reported.
“I can confirm that we have detected the launch of Scud-type missiles; we strongly regret that act,” Rasmussen said, adding: “I consider it an act of a desperate regime approaching collapse.” The latest launches were detected on Dec. 20, a source close to NATO said. The use of such missiles by the al-Assad regime highlights the “need for effective defense and protection of our ally Turkey,” Rasmussen said, referring to the planned deployment of Patriot anti-missile batteries along its southern border with Syria.
Rasmussen stressed that the missiles had not landed on Turkish territory but they nonetheless posed a potential threat which had to be countered.
Netherlands approves sending Patriots
The Patriot deployment, to be made by NATO allies the United States, Germany and the Netherlands, is for “defensive purposes only,” he said. Meanwhile, House of Representatives of the Netherlands approved sending Patriot systems to Turkey, Anatolian news agency reported.
The Netherlands will send two Patriots and at most 360 military personnel to Turkey on Jan. 8.
His remarks came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that “the configuration as it [the Patriots] is being presented in the media really looks like it could be used against Iran.” Lavrov also told Russia Today on Dec. 21 that Russia was “not in the business of regime change.”
“Some of the regional players were suggesting to us: ‘Why don’t you tell President al-Assad to leave? We will arrange for some safe haven for him,’” Lavrov said, adding that if indeed those who suggested this had this in mind, they should have taken it directly to al-Assad.
“Why do they use us as a postman? If President al-Assad is interested it must be discussed directly with him,” he said.
Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin said on Dec. 21 that Russia did not want “chaos” in Syria and that it looked forward to seeing a democratic regime in the war-torn nation.
“We will try to pursue the public order in Syria and look forward to a democratic regime in Syria because this country is close to our borders,” he said at a news conference closing an EU-Russia summit, according to an English translation of his words. “We wouldn’t like chaos in that country,” he added. “Everyone is interested in stopping the violence and the bloodshed.”
Putin for the second time in two days also denied propping up the regime of al-Assad and appeared to acknowledge the possibility of change, saying: “We do not advocate the government of Syria.”
He insisted however that a solution must be found between all parties at the negotiating table to take into account the views “of all the citizens.”