BRUSSELS — NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Nov. 21 said the alliance had received a request from NATO member Turkey for a deployment of Patriot missiles to protect its troubled border with Syria.
“I have received a letter from the Turkish government requesting the deployment of Patriot missiles,” Rasmussen said in a statement.
“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.
“And it would be a concrete demonstration of Alliance solidarity and resolve,” the statement said.
Diplomatic sources told AFP that NATO ambassadors meeting later Nov. 21 would likely approve the Turkish request while Rasmussen said a team would visit Turkey next week to conduct a site-survey for the possible deployment of Patriots.
“The security of the Alliance is indivisible,” Rasmussen said.
“NATO is fully committed to deterring against any threats and defending Turkey’s territorial integrity,” he said.
Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said in Ankara on Nov. 20 that the surface-to-air missiles were “a precautionary measure, for defense in particular.”
Turkey’s border villages have been hit by artillery fire from Syria as forces loyal to Damascus battle rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
“It is the very mission of NATO to supply the security of its members, when one of them is threatened by this level of border violations and faced with even further risks, like ballistic missiles,” Davutoglu said.
Germany and The Netherlands are the two main European nations that possess the medium-range missiles made by U.S. group Raytheon.
“It is up to the individual NATO countries that have available Patriots ... to decide if they can provide them for deployment in Turkey and for how long,” the Rasmussen statement said.
NATO deployed Patriot missiles in Turkey during the 1991 Gulf War and in 2003 during the Iraqi conflict.
Rasmussen said earlier this week that “the situation on the Syria-Turkey border is of great concern.”
“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,” he said during talks with EU ministers Nov. 19.
Rasmussen said there was currently no question of imposing a no-fly zone with the back-up of the Patriot missiles.