The deployment of NATO’s advanced surface-to-air Patriot missiles is intended to counter threats not only from Syria, but from Iran as well, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.
Earlier this month NATO approved the deployment of Patriot air defense systems in Turkey as a way to prevent potential Syrian cross-border missile or mortar attacks. Six NATO-controlled Patriot batteries are to be operational by the end of January 2013.
“As for the purpose of this deployment, yes, I read and hear that some experts believe that if it is intended to prevent any Syrian crossfire then it could be positioned a bit differently,” he said in an interview with the RT television network.
“And as it is envisaged to be positioned, some people say it is quite useful to protect the American radar which is part of the American missile defense system they are building quoting, ‘the threat from Iran’.”
The top Russian diplomat added that “If this is the case then it is even more risky… because this multiple purpose deployment could create additional temptations.”
NATO member Turkey formally requested Patriot missiles from the military alliance after weeks of talks with NATO allies about how to shore up security on its 900-kilometer (560 mile) border with Syria.
Turkey has opened fire with artillery several times in recent months across its border with Syria in retaliation for shelling from Syria that killed five Turkish civilians in October. It has also provided shelter to refugees fleeing the violence in Syria, and has been one of President Bashar al-Assad’s harshest critics during the almost 17-month revolt against his rule.
Tensions between Turkey and Syria flared dangerously this summer after Damascus shot down a Turkish fighter that had violated its airspace. Turkey threatened retaliation if there was any repeat of the incident, although it admitted its plane had mistakenly strayed into Syrian airspace.