Ankara: Nato member states have agreed to supply Turkey with a sophisticated Patriot missile defence system to counter a potential threat from Syria and talks on its deployment are in the final stage, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.
“The countries who supply Nato with Patriot systems are known, we have reached an agreement with those countries. The official application will be completed as soon as possible,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference.
“Intensive work is underway and the talks have reached the final stage.” He added: “The formal negotiations will be concluded at the shortest time possible. They won’t last much longer.”
Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday in Brussels that Nato would consider Turkey’s request as a matter of urgency. He said Nato has drawn up plans to defend Turkey.
Nato installed anti-aircraft batteries in Turkey during the 1991 and 2003 Iraq wars. They were never used and later removed. Within the alliance, only the United States, Germany and the Netherlands have Patriots in their arsenals. Rasmussen noted that the deployment of the US-built Patriots would not mean imposing a no-fly zone over Syrian territory, a key demand of Syrian opposition groups. “If we are to deploy Patriot missiles it would be purely a defensive measure to defend and protect Turkey,” he said. He had also said it was “premature” to comment on German reports that Berlin planned to send 170 soldiers to Turkey to man the missiles but added that “Turkey can count on allied solidarity”.
Turkey’s air defences consist mostly of short-range Rapier and Stinger systems, and US-made Hawk low-to-medium-altitude missiles, according to US media report. Ankara has been looking to acquire a new high-altitude defence system to replace its Cold War-era Nike-Hercules batteries.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday he feared that the militarisation of the conflict in Syria could turn the country into a “regional battleground.”
“We are deeply concerned about the continued militarisation of the conflict, horrendous violations of human rights and the risk of Syria turning into a regional battleground as the violence intensifies,” Ban told reporters during a visit to Cairo.
He urged the international community to support the efforts of UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi for “an inclusive Syrian led political transition that will address the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”
As the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, Ban also appealed to countries “to generously contribute more to our humanitarian programmes inside Syria and in the region and to assist Syria’s neighbours in dealing with the refugee crisis.”
The Syrian conflict, which has raged since March 2011, has killed over 39,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Ban was in Cairo as part of a regional visit focused on the conflict in the Gaza Strip. He will also travel to Israel and the West Bank.