Netherlands likely to provide Patriots

Netherlands likely to provide Patriots

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Netherlands likely to provide Patriots

Syrian oppsosition fighters holding their guns in the strategic border town of Ras al-Ain in Syria. AFP photo

The Netherlands will be the likely donor of Patriot missiles to NATO ally Turkey in order to help defend the country’s border with Syria, though Turkey has yet to make an official request for the system.

There is already a consensus among members in the alliance to deploy Patriots in Turkish territory in an effort to help defend the country’s border from threats emerging from inside Syria, including chemical weapons that may be used by the Syrian regime or groups in Syria such as al-Qaeda, a Western diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

The Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert yesterday said that the Netherlands has not received a formal request to send Patriot missiles to NATO ally Turkey. “We are waiting for a formal request,” minister added.

“NATO does not exist for nothing,” Dutch news agency ANP also quoted Hennis-Plasschaert as saying on Nov. 18.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said yesterday that no such request had yet been received from Ankara, but that if it was it would be considered “as a matter of urgency.”

A Turkish foreign ministry official told the Daily News yesterday that they could make the move at any moment “today or tomorrow,” but no application had been proposed as the paper went to press.

Germany must appeal to its Parliament for permission to send missiles to Turkey, as the country would have to send a technical team of soldiers as well, the Western diplomat told the Daily News. This is the reason that the Netherlands, one of the two countries in Europe with Patriots available, is more likely to provide them.

“We expect Turkey to make an official request to NATO this week,” he added.

Deploy of soldiers

The donor country may also deploy soldiers in Turkish territory as part of the mission, to assist in operating the system. Turkey does not need a parliamentary mandate to host foreign soldiers to manage the Patriots since the deployment will be under a NATO framework, a Turkish diplomat said.

NATO installed anti-aircraft batteries in Turkish territory during the 1991 and 2003 Iraq wars, with the Netherlands as the donor on those occasions too.

Turkey made an initial appeal to NATO for the Patriot missiles just after the Akçakale incident, which killed five Turkish citizens in a Syrian shelling, the diplomat added.

Turkey’s request will be discussed in the first council meeting. NATO ambassadors will hold a regular weekly meeting tomorrow, but the alliance may call for a special meeting at any time.

Rasmussen told the press yesterday that the situation along the Turkey-Syria border was a big concern and their plans to protect and defend Turkey were completely ready.

He also noted that the deployment of the U.S.-built Patriots would not mean imposing a no-fly zone over Syrian territory, a key demand of Syrian opposition groups.

“If we are to deploy Patriot missiles it would be purely a defensive measure to protect Turkey,” he said.

Stressing that NATO’s security was indivisible, President Abdullah Gül pointed out yesterday the presence of chemical weapons in Syria obtained during the Cold War, and the potential threat against Turkey that could be eliminated with the removal of these weapons.

NATO has established some contingency and defense plans in light of these facts, Gül said at a joint press conference with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, in response to questions concerning Turkey’s expected appeal to NATO for the Patriot systems.