The likelihood of Turkey’s request to NATO for the deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missiles being granted has been boosted, after both the German and Dutch governments expressed a willingness to support their NATO ally.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle stated: "It would be a serious mistake if we were to refuse defensive support to a NATO member country in a moment when this member country feels that it is exposed to attacks from outside."
Ankara has insisted that the missile system, which possesses a sophisticated anti-aircraft system and the capability to locate and shoot down some ballistic missiles, would not be used to enforce a no-fly zone. Instead, it would only serve as a defensive measure should Syria launch an attack. In any case, any deployment would bring NATO one step closer to involvement in the Syrian conflict.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that NATO would consider Turkey’s request “without delay”, adding that it was up to the three countries which have the Patriot launchers and missiles - Germany, the Netherlands, and the U.S. – to decide whether they could provide them. However, in the case of the two European states, any decision will be subject to the approval of their respective national parliaments. A NATO official also revealed that additional time would be needed to transport and install the systems, align their radars, and link them to Turkey’s air defence network, before the Patriots could be considered fully operational. During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when the Netherlands dispatched Patriot batteries to protect Turkey's border, the systems were transported by ship and then by road - taking between six and eights weeks to become operational.
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the move, calling Turkey’s request an act of “muscle flexing”. A Ministry spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich, announced in a Moscow press conference on Thursday: “We have a different recommendation for our Turkish colleagues: they should use their influence on the Syrian opposition to promote the soonest beginning of the inter-Syrian dialogue."
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