Spain extends Patriot deployment since NATO ally’s security is crucial: Ambassador
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
A Patriot missile launcher system is pictured at a military base in Gaziantep on Feb 5, 2013. Ankara asked NATO for help to bolster its air defenses.
Spain has decided on the extension of Patriot air defense missiles deployed in Turkey’s southern Adana province for the next six months because Madrid attaches importance to its NATO ally’s security concerns, Spanish Ambassador Juan Gonzalez Barba has told the Hürriyet Daily News.
He recalled that Madrid decided to continue supporting the security of its NATO ally, although Spain joined the European consensus in restricting arms export license over Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria because his country disconnects these two issues.
“The long-term perspective is that whatever divergences might be regarding the operation [Peace Spring] the fact that Turkey’s security, as a NATO partner, is essential and has been the main consideration,” he said.
Spain’s Patriot air defense missiles were deployed in Adana in 2015, replacing the Netherlands’. The missiles were deployed as part of Turkey’s request for NATO assistance for possible attacks from Syria to Turkey.
Turkey’s “Operation Peace Spring” caused strong criticism among European countries, with even the EU having decided on sanctions against Ankara. Eventually, Italy decided to pull back its SAMP/T systems in the southeastern province of Kahramanmaraş this year.
Faced with a similar debate in its country, Madrid decided to continue its aerial defense support for Turkey as a NATO mission, the ambassador stated.
“The decision to extend the operation for another six months has been taken and it will be valid around May next year. The reason behind this is that we have been a very close ally with Turkey since we joined NATO. We valued very much the cooperation on security and military fields with Turkey. This was the main rationality in extending our mission for another six months,” the ambassador said.
The ambassador recalled that when Turkey requested aerial security for Adana province, it was under threat by attacks from Syrian soil. “This threat continues,” he noted.
The Spanish ambassador said Madrid “joined the European consensus in restricting arms export license related to the operation in northern Syria” and added, “But, we consider that the security of Turkey continues to be very important to us all. So, we disconnected these two issues.”
Spain’s policy has a long-term perspective, Barba emphasized. “We come here a long way since we have joined NATO. Turkey, of course, has been a NATO partner longer than us. We became NATO partners in 1982. Since then military cooperation between Turkey and Spain has been very successful.
“There was this operation [Peace Spring]. We also joined European partners in criticizing it. But at the same time, in the long-term perspective, Turkey continues to be a NATO ally for us. Luckily, this move was understood by everyone in Turkey. So they accepted that there may be divergences concerning one operation, but at the same time, we still have long term perspective for NATO.”
“Long-term perspective is that whatever divergences might be regarding the operation the fact that Turkey’s security is essential as a NATO partner has been then main consideration,” he stated.
The head of the Spanish army will visit Turkey on Dec. 17 and he will travel to İncirlik Airbase to visit Spain’s troops, the ambassador stated. “Basically, all our soldiers, 150, are very motivated there,” Barba said.
In 2013, the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands provided Patriot batteries in southern Turkey as part of NATO mission as the allies said the use of ballistic missiles by the Syrian regime posed a threat to Turkey.
However, they pulled back their systems on political disagreements with Turkey and replaced them with other NATO ally countries. In the summer, France pledged to deploy SAMP-T systems in Turkey but the issue has been stalled over Turkey’s “Operation Peace Spring.”