ANKARA, Turkey — After a three-year deployment, Germany has withdrawn its Patriot air and anti-missile defense systems from Turkish soil. The move comes shortly after NATO agreed to strengthen efforts to protect Turkey's southern borders and airspace.
Germany, along with other NATO allies, had deployed the Patriots in Turkey to help the Turkish better counter any potential missile threat from Syria.
The German Patriots were dissembled into parts and loaded on the Britannia Seaways, a Danish ro-ro ship at Turkey's Mediterranean port of Iskenderun near the country's border with Syria. The system composes of 380 different parts.
Earlier this year, the Berlin government said it would not renew the Patriot mandate in Turkey.
The German Patriots were deployed in the southeastern Turkish province of Kahramanmaras.
Officials said the Danish ship left the port of Iskenderun Dec. 22 en route to Germany together with 250 German military officials aboard. The officers were at the Gazi Barracks in Kahramanmaras to operate the Patriot system.
A military ceremony marking the term end of the patriots was held at the barracks in November.
The German withdrawal leaves only Spanish Patriots systems in Turkish territory. They are stationed in the southern province of Adana near the Incirlik military base where U.S. and allied forces carry out airstrikes against radical jihadist strongholds in Syria.
In early 2013, the Dutch, US and German missile systems were stationed in Turkey. Spanish patriots replaced the Dutch systems early 2015.
Spain has agreed to extend its Patriot mandate in Turkey to help protect the Turkish territory.
On Dec. 18 NATO allies agreed to augment Turkey's southern borders and airspace by sending aircraft and ships. The NATO assistance will include surveillance aircraft and what NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described as "enhanced air policing, and increased naval presence including maritime patrol aircraft."
The ships will be provided by Germany and Denmark currently exercising in the eastern Mediterranean.