US ‘backs’ Turkish bid for Patriots

US ‘backs’ Turkish bid for Patriots

US ‘backs’ Turkish bid for Patriots

NATO’s Patriots would be deployed Turkey’s long border with Syria. AFP Photo

Washington supports Turkey’s request for the deployment of NATO’s Patriot missiles along its border with Syria, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said in an interview with Voice of America (VOA).

The Pentagon chief said the U.S. supported the request and that talks with Turkey were under way. “They have asked that we work with them to try to see what we can do to give them some missile defense capability. We are working with them, and our hope is that we can help provide that kind of assistance,” VOA quoted Panetta as saying on Nov. 15.

Panetta’s statement does not represent anything new on the matter, according to Turkish officials, who said it was natural for Turkey to continue its consultations with NATO members on every issue. Turkey has not yet made an official request to the alliance for the temporary deployment of the Patriots, officials stated.

Speaking in a recent interview with the Financial Times, President Abdullah Gül suggested the Patriot missiles could act as a deterrent against a possible chemical weapons threat from Syria.

“It is known that Syria has chemical weapons, and they have old Soviet delivery systems, so if there is, in some eventuality, some sort of madness in this respect and some action is taken, contingency planning has to be put in place, and this is something NATO is doing,” Gül said. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also said Nov. 9 that Turkey had not yet officially appealed to NATO for the deployment of Patriots on its territory, but added that the issue was on the agenda of Turkey-NATO talks as part of contingency plans for potential threats stemming from the conflict in neighboring Syria.

“Contingency plans with NATO were made a few months ago due to the internal conflict in Syria,” Davutoğlu said, noting that NATO had also reacted when Syrian shells fell on the Turkish border town of Akçakale last month, killing five Turkish nationals, since a member country’s border is treated as NATO’s border.

“There is no appeal [to NATO] yet,” he said, reiterating that the issue was discussed during contingency talks between Turkish and NATO officials.

The Turkish army bolstered its presence along its Syria border after the Akçakale incident and the recent bombings of the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn, which is adjacent to the Turkish border town of Ceylanpınar.