Turkey, NATO in field near Syria for Patriots

Turkey, NATO in field near Syria for Patriots

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey, NATO in field near Syria for Patriots

This 2003 file picture shows Patriot anti-missile batteries in an Diyarbakır mili- MOSCOW / PARIS tary base. Turkey and NATO start scouting mission for the new deployments. AFP Photo

delegation of Turkish and NATO officials will begin conducting a site survey today for the deployment of Patriot Air and Missile Defense Systems, the Turkish Armed Forces said while reiterating that the system is for defensive purposes.

The system was not for a “no-fly zone or offensive operations,” but just for use “against an air or missile threat from Syria,” the military said in a statement. NATO had previously been carrying out work for command and control, rules of engagement and integration of Patriot systems with Turkey’s air defense system, the statement also said.

A joint Turkish-NATO team will start work today assessing where to station the missiles, how many would be needed and the number of foreign troops that would be sent to operate them, the statement said. Foreign soldiers assigned to operate the system in Turkey would be placed under the framework of a memorandum of understanding in accordance with Turkey’s status of forces agreement (SOFA) with NATO, the General Staff said.

“We are a NATO member and we believe that there is need for deployment of these [Patriot missiles]. As you know, there is a possibility of ballistic missiles [being used] by Syria,” Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesperson Bülent Arınç told reporters following a six-hour long Cabinet meeting. In a bid to highlight the potential threat posed by Syria against Turkey, Arınç recalled that Syria had shot down a Turkish reconnaissance jet in June and that a mortar bomb fired from Syria had killed five civilians in Akçakale, Şanlıurfa, in October.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned last week that such a deployment could spark a “very serious armed conflict” involving NATO. However, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Lavrov that any deployment “would in no way support a no-fly zone or any offensive operations,” according to a spokesman for the alliance. Iran also said the deployment would add to the region’s problems.

Strike on Turkey border

On the ground, a Syrian warplane launched three bombs or rockets at a rebel command center in the northwest of the country near the Turkish border yesterday without causing any casualties. Meanwhile, rebels captured a hydroelectric dam on the Euphrates river in the country’s north after days of heavy fighting, seizing crates of ammunition from the government troops who were protecting the strategic facility in the latest battlefield success for opposition fighters, activists said, adding that rebels overran regime defenses and captured the Tishrin Dam near the town of Manbij.