AWACS on table for Turkey’s air defense
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Hürriyet photoTurkey has not “excluded” the use of NATO’s Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) to protect Turkish territories over rising tension along its border with Syria, a Turkish official said. Ankara also formally requested on Nov. 21 that NATO deploy Patriot missiles along the shared border.
If the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) of NATO calls for air surveillance of Turkey, there would be no need for an additional official request to the alliance, an official from the Turkish Foreign Ministry told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. The official highlighted the Nov. 21 Foreign Ministry statement that said, “A decision has been taken to formally request NATO to support the augmentation of our national air defense by allied air defense elements.”
Those “defense elements” might also include AWACS if needed, the official said, adding that there are already some NATO AWACS planes patrolling the region and they could head to Turkey if necessary.
Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, aircraft from NATO’s AWACS component deployed to eastern Turkey to help reinforce NATO’s southern flank during the war. In 2003 AWACS crews flew over 100 missions and more than 950 flying hours to protect Turkey.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands will send a reconnaissance team to Turkey for a site survey of Patriots. A package donation for different parts of the system from the Netherlands and Germany is also on the agenda, the Turkish official said.
Warning from Russia
Parliamentary approval was not needed for the deployment of Patriots and foreign troops, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said. “According to Article 4 of the Washington Treaty, our soil is NATO’s soil. The Turkish Parliament’s permission is not needed for this process, as this is an action taken by NATO.” The Turkish military will determine appropriate locations for the deployment of the missiles, Erdoğan said. “This deployment should be seen only as a defensive measure.”
Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy leader Hüseyin Çelik said yesterday that Turkey would “hold the trigger” for the Patriots. However, according to NATO’s rules of engagement, SACEUR will have operational command responsibility for deployed air defense systems, while military commanders on the ground will be responsible for air defense operations. Syria’s chief ally, Moscow, also responded to the request, with its Foreign Ministry saying Russia opposes the possible NATO deployment of Patriot missiles near Turkey’s border with Syria. “This would not foster stability in the region,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.