First 6 NATO Patriot Missiles Arrive in Turkey

Al Arabiya23.01.2013 Europe
First 6 NATO Patriot Missiles Arrive in Turkey

First 6 NATO Patriot Missiles Arrive in Turkey

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The first of 6 NATO Patriot missile batteries intended to protect Turkey from a potential Syrian attack arrived by ship from Germany on Monday, drawing a small but noisy protest from nationalist and leftist demonstrators.

Dozens of camouflaged German military vehicles carrying the batteries disembarked at the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun.

About 150 Turkish Communist Party supporters fired pink smoke grenades and burned an American flag at a port entrance.

Meanwhile, a bulk of the Dutch military detachment to the NATO missile defense mission left the Netherlands for Turkey on Monday.

After a delay caused by the heavy snowfall, some 270 soldiers of the Dutch contingent were bid farewell by their families and left chilling Netherlands for the more moderate climate of the Middle East.

The Netherlands, Germany and the United States are each sending 2 Patriot missile batteries to Turkey after Ankara asked for NATO’s help to bolster security along its 900-km (560-mile) border with Syria. An advance mission of 30 soldiers had already left on January 8.

Damascus has called the move “provocative,” in part because Turkey’s missile request could be seen as a first step toward implementing a no-fly zone over Syrian airspace.

The frontier has become a flashpoint in the 22-month insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad, with Syrian government shells frequently landing inside Turkish territory, drawing a response in kind from Ankara's military.

“This mission is purely defensive,” said Polish Army Lieutenant Colonel Dariusz Kacperczyk, NATO Spokesman for the Patriot deployment. “It is to deter any possible threat coming from missiles to the Turkish population and territory.”

The batteries will be fully operational by the beginning of February and will protect more than 3.5 million people living in the region, he said.

Turkey has been one of Assad’s fiercest critics, leading calls for international intervention and providing shelter for more than 150,000 Syrian refugees. Despite wariness over a possibly more complex Turkish involvement in the conflict, there has only been small-scale opposition to the NATO deployment.

Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition said on Monday it had postponed a decision on forming a government-in-exile at its meeting in Istanbul, saying it needs guarantees of support from dissident forces on the ground.


Source: Al Arabiya; Agencies - Photo: Reuters



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