German parliament okays Patriot deployment in Turkey
BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
AP PhotoThe German parliament approved by a wide majority today the deployment of Patriot missiles to help Turkey defend its border against conflict-riven Syria as part of a NATO mission.
The vote clears the way for Germany to deploy the missiles to southern Turkey along with up to 400 German soldiers after NATO member state Turkey asked the alliance for help.
Some 461 deputies voted in favour, while 86 voted against the move in the Bundestag lower house of parliament. Eight lawmakers abstained.
As well as the government coalition parties, the main opposition Social Democrats and Greens had said they backed the move. Only the far-left Die Linke party was opposed.
The German Patriot missile batteries will be positioned about 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the Syrian border in southern Turkey with a mandate that will run until January 31, 2014.
The foreign and defence ministries last week said the move was an "exclusively defensive measure, which as a means of military deterrent prevents the conflict inside Syria spreading to Turkey".
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle stressed in a joint press conference on December 6 with Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere that the missiles' mandate would "in no way" lead to a deployment in Syria.
Although the mandate runs until the end of January 2014, De Maiziere said the goal was for the operation to end earlier, depending on the situation on the ground.