Turkish, German and Dutch defense ministers visit Patriots deployed in Turkey
ADANA/KAHRAMANMARAŞ – Doğan News Agency
Dutch defense minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (L) German defense minister Thomas de Maiziere (C) and Turkish defense minister Ismet Yilmaz walk towards Patriot surface-to-air missile systems, unseen, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey Saturday Feb. 23, 2013. Around 300 German soldiers, as well as units from the USA and the Netherlands are supposed to protect Turkey from possible missile strikes form Syria. AP photoTurkish Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz along with his German and Dutch counterparts visited the Patriot missile systems deployed from both countries in Adana and Kahramanmaraş near the Turkish-Syrian border on Feb. 23.
Germany's defense minister Thomas de Maiziere said during the visit that they delivered a "clear warning" to Damascus that NATO would not tolerate missiles being fired into Turkey.
"Our presence here serves to make sure that Syria doesn't turn its capabilities into action," de Maiziere said, while also saying that the risk of attack was "minimal". "We can see from here that Syria is using rockets - often several times a day” he added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was scheduled to visit the same area on Sunday when she begins a two-day visit to Turkey.
Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert reiterated that Holland was willing to fulfill its commitments as a member of NATO. “What is happening in Syria showed us that war could occur nearby in Europe. This is a very important fact [from the viewpoint of] our security concept. It is a situation that we should never forget. We have to take lessons from what we have observed in Mali, Libya and Syria,” she said.
The hosting minister Yılmaz stressed that his counterparts had come to Turkey upon the government’s invitation. He thanked both countries as well as the United States for having responded to NATO’s call, adding that deterrence has increased in the region thanks to the Patriot batteries.
Turkey requested help from its NATO allies after shells landed on its border areas from Syria in October 2012, killing a number of villagers.
NATO approved the deployment later that year in December, saying the use of ballistic missiles by the Syrian regime posed a threat to Turkey and insisting that the move to deploy Patriots was purely defensive.