Turkey’s request to deploy Patriot missile systems that the country says are necessary to protect its border with conflict-torn Syria will be considered soon, NATO’s secretary general said on Wednesday.
“I have received a letter from the Turkish government requesting the deployment of Patriot missiles. Such a deployment would augment Turkey’s air defense capabilities to defend the population and territory of Turkey,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement.
Turkey has opened fire several times across the border with Syria in retaliation for Syrian shelling, which killed five Turkish civilians in October.
Rasmussen said the deployment would “contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along NATO’s south-eastern border” and that the North Atlantic alliance would discuss Turkey’s request “without delay.”
“It is up to the individual NATO countries that have available Patriots – Germany, the Netherlands and the United States – to decide if they can provide them for deployment in Turkey and for how long. Next week a joint team will visit Turkey to conduct a site-survey for the possible deployment of Patriots,” he said.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the request should be approved, the BBC reported.
US Patriot surface-to-air missiles were deployed to Turkey in 1991 and 2003, during the two Gulf Wars. The missiles were provided by the Netherlands, media reported.
Since its start in March 2011, the Syrian conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, according to various Syrian opposition groups. The UN puts the death toll at at least 30,000 people.
The West is pushing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster, while Russia and China seek to prevent outside interference in Syria, claiming that the Assad regime and the opposition are both to blame for the bloodshed. Veto-wielding Moscow and Beijing have three times blocked UN Security Council resolutions on Syria.