NATO will likely send Patriot surface-to-air missiles to Turkey after its government lodged a request for the missiles to deal with the fallout of the Syrian civil war raging nearby.
The Turkish government cited the need to protect its extensive border with Syria. In recent months, mortars shot from Syria have fallen on Turkish border towns, leaving at least five people dead.
In a statement, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said sending the missiles to Turkey will be considered by NATO member states “without delay.”
“Such a deployment would augment Turkey’s air defense capabilities to defend the population and territory of Turkey. It would contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along NATO’s south-eastern border,” said Rasumssen.
Turkey has “stressed that the deployment will be defensive only, and that it will in no way support a no-fly zone or any offensive operation,” according to Rasmussen.
The alliance’s chief said that the separate member states who have the missiles--the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands--would have to make a decision on deploying them and for what length of time. In the next week, NATO will send a team to survey a site in Turkey for deploying the missiles.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last week that he would look into supporting Turkey as Syria’s security situation continues to deteriorate.
“They have asked that we work with them to try to see what we can do to give them some missile defense capability,” Panetta said, according to a release from the Defense Department. “And we are working with them. And our hope is that we can help provide that kind of assistance.”
Turkish President Abdullah Gul suggested the missiles would be used to deter against a Syrian chemical weapon attack.
“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,” Gul told the Financial Times.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry said in July that it has chemical and biological weapons, and that they would be used if any foreign power intervenes, drawing a warning from U.S. President Barack Obama. However, the Syrian regime later recanted that statement.
In recent months, Turkey has sent more troops to its border area after a Syrian shell fell on the town of Akcakale, killing a family. The Turkish Parliament soon after approved a bill that would allow the government to send in soldiers to carry out strikes on Syrian military targets.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.