BRUSSELS / ANKARA / MALATYA
An air base in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır sees unusual mobilization on the eve of a visit by NATO and Turkish officials for the Patriots.
A delegation of Turkish and NATO
officials has begun a site survey in the eastern Anatolian province of Malatya today for the deployment of Patriot Air and Missile Defense Systems, Anatolia news agency reported.
NATO to control Patriots
The joint Turkish-NATO team will decide where to station the missiles, how many will be needed and the number of foreign troops that will be sent to operate them.
NATO General-Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen believes that NATO
allies will respond positively to Turkey’s demand for Patriot missiles within “days” and that command of the system will be under NATO
control. He also said the alliance would not avoid using further measures for Turkey’s defense.
Rasmussen said NATO
allies were concerned about Turkey’s defense and that all allies were likely to support Turkey’s demand for the missiles. “Turkey’s demand for Patriot missiles is only for defensive purposes,” Rasmussen said in an interview with private Turkish broadcaster NTV. “The deployment of missiles will conform to the NATO
chain of command, of which Turkey is also a part.”
“Russia has no right to intervene in this process. This is a NATO
decision; third parties have nothing to say,” Rasmussen said about Russian
objections to the deployment.
According Rasmussen, NATO
finances would be used to fund the Patriot system and Turkey would also contribute as the host country. The NATO
chief was also questioned regarding the efficiency of Patriot missiles. “I suppose this deployment will dissuade potential aggression,” he said. “Similar instruments were used in Turkey in 2003. NATO
possesses sufficient instruments to provide for Turkey’s defense and will not avoid using them.” Rasmussen did not give a specific date for the deployment of the missiles, though he said it would take days, not weeks.Questions from CHP, MHP
The request has raised eyebrows in opposition parties, as the main and nationalist opposition parties linked the issue to the protection of Israel. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
has countered government claims and played down any missile threat from Syria. “Will these missiles be deployed to protect the Kürecik radar base? Or will these missiles be deployed as a result of bargaining with Israel
behind closed doors? The government should answer these questions,” Kılıçdaroğlu said yesterday in an address to his party’s parliamentary group meeting.
Government statements over a possible missile threat from Syria are not persuasive, according to the main opposition leader.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli echoed Kılıçdaroğlu and calling on the government to inform Parliament on the missiles. “We wonder why Prime Minister Erdoğan abruptly requested Patriot missiles from NATO. Have Syrian missiles been directed to Turkey? Has President Gül’s concern over missiles turned out to be right? Is Turkey a target for chemical missiles? Our other worry is whether Patriot missiles will be deployed for Israel’s defense,” he said in an address to his parliamentary group yesterday.