NATO to weigh Turkey missile request as 'matter of urgency'
Tanks are positioned at a military base on the Turkish-Syrian border near the town of Suruç, in Şanlıurfa. Turkey and NATO have been working on contingency plans in the face of the ongoing Syrian crisis that also include protection of Turkey from a potential ballistic missile attack by deploying Patriots. REUTERS photo
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen today said the alliance would consider a request from Turkey to deploy Patriot anti-missile batteries along its border border with Syria "as a matter of urgency", AFP has reported.
Rasmussen, arriving for a meeting of European Union defence ministers, said NATO had received no formal request from NATO-member Turkey to date but added that if one was made, "we will consider that as a matter of urgency".
German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere said earlier that he expected a request on Monday from Turkey, whose border villages have been hit by artillery fire as forces loyal to Damascus battle rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
"The situation on the Syria-Turkey border is of great concern," said Rasmussen.
"We have all the plans ready to defend and protect Turkey if needed. The plans will be adjusted if necessary to ensure effective protection of Turkey." Rasmussen said there was no question currently of imposing a no-fly zone with the back-up of the Patriot missiles.
"The Patriot missiles would be a purely defensive measure to defend Turkey." He also said it was "premature" to comment on German reports that Berlin planned to send 170 soldiers to Turkey to man the missiles.
But he added: "Turkey can count on allied solidarity".
Ankara, a one-time Damascus ally, said last week that it was in talks with NATO about the Patriots but had not made any formal request.
Turkish forces have systematically retaliated to every cross-border shelling since Syrian fire killed five Turkish civilians on October 3.
Patriot talks underway as ‘official request soon’
The consultations with NATO and its leading members over the deployment of Patriot defense systems are still underway, Turkish diplomatic sources have said, neither confirming nor denying a German daily’s claim that Turkey’s official request will be conveyed today.
“I can’t say when precisely the request will be made, but it will be soon,” diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News over the weekend following German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung’s report claiming Ankara’s appeal will be made today.
It also argued that the Patriot system will be provided by Germany and that some 170 German soldiers will be stationed to Turkey for the deployment of the system along the Syrian border.
Netherlands provided Patriots in Iraq war
In continental Europe only Germany and the Netherlands have these systems, and it was the latter which twice provided Patriots to Turkey during the first and second Iraqi war. Diplomatic sources see Germany, who has more of these systems, as the potential donor in the current situation. “The Netherlands sent 360 troops for the deployment of these systems in the second Iraq war. So it’s only natural to see a number of foreign troops stationed temporarily only for the deployment of this system,” sources said.
Turkey and NATO have been working on contingency plans in the face of the ongoing Syria crisis that also include protection of Turkey from a potential ballistic missile attack.
Syria has a very strong missile arsenal, which causes concerns in Turkey that it could use them in the future phases of its ongoing fight against the Syrian opposition and its supporters.
The deployment will not come under the alliance’s Article 5, which binds all members to come to the defense of an ally that is attacked by an external power, the German daily said, noting that the mobilization and provision of missiles is designed to protect Turkey from rocket and jet attacks along the border.
The German government has reportedly agreed to participate in such an operation, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported, adding that Berlin did not see the matter as an intervention in Syria’s affairs. Turkey hosts more than 170.000 Syrians on its border with Syria.