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Friday, November 23, 2012

NATO to consider Turkey missile request on Syria border as ‘urgent’

Netherlands and Germany are the only countries in Europe with Patriot missiles. (Reuters)NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Monday said the alliance would consider a request from Turkey to deploy Patriot anti-missile batteries along its border border with Syria “as a matter of urgency.”
Rasmussen, arriving for a meeting of European Union defense ministers, said NATO had received no formal request from NATO-member Turkey to date but added that if one was made, “we will consider that as a matter of urgency.”
German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere said earlier that he expected a request on Monday from Turkey, whose border villages have been hit by artillery fire as forces loyal to Damascus battle rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
“The situation on the Syria-Turkey border is of great concern,” said Rasmussen.
“We have all the plans ready to defend and protect Turkey if needed. The plans will be adjusted if necessary to ensure effective protection of Turkey.”
Rasmussen said there was no question currently of imposing a no-fly zone with the back-up of the Patriot missiles.
“The Patriot missiles would be a purely defensive measure to defend Turkey.”
He also said it was “premature” to comment on German reports that Berlin planned to send 170 soldiers to Turkey to man the missiles.
But he added: “Turkey can count on allied solidarity”.
Earlier it was reported that the Netherlands and Germany may send Patriot missiles to NATO ally Turkey to help defend the country’s border with Syria, Dutch news agency ANP reported on Sunday, citing the Dutch defense minister.
Turkey said earlier this week it had intensified talks with NATO allies on how to shore up security on its 900-km (560-mile) frontier with Syria after mortar rounds fired from Syria landed inside its territory.
“NATO does not exist for nothing,” ANP quoted Dutch Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert as saying.
A Dutch Defense Ministry spokesman said: “There is no request but the Netherlands and Germany are the only countries in Europe with Patriots.”
The Dutch minister spoke to her German counterpart last week about a possible deployment, ANP said.