ANKARA:Turkey is to make an imminent official request to Nato to station Patriot missiles along its border with Syria, a senior Turkish foreign ministry official said yesterday.
Nato-member Turkey has already bolstered its own military presence along the 910-km (border and has been responding in kind to gunfire and mortar shells hitting its territory from fighting between Syrian rebels and Syrian government forces.
“Concerning this topic (Patriot missiles), an imminent official request is to be made,” the official told Reuters.
The official said there was a potential missile threat to Turkey from Syria and that Turkey had a right to take steps to counter such a threat. He gave no further details.
“The deployment of these type of missiles as a step to counter threats is routine under Nato regulations,” the official said, adding that they had been deployed in Turkey during the second Gulf War.
A Nato spokeswoman in Brussels said: “We haven’t received a request. As the Secretary-General said on Monday, the allies will consider any request that is brought to the North Atlantic Council.” Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday announced a planned Vatican mission to Syria will not go ahead and said he had dispatched an envoy to Lebanon instead to meet refugees and Christian community leaders.
“Unfortunately different circumstances and developments have not rendered possible this initiative in the way we had hoped. I have therefore given a special mission to Cardinal Robert Sarah,” the pope said in St Peter’s Square.
Benedict also called for peace in Syria and highlighted the “immense suffering” of civilians, urging all sides in the conflict to pursue “paths that lead to a just cohabitation and an adequate political solution”.
“We have to do everything possible before it is too late,” he said.
The Vatican had announced last month that it would send a high-level delegation to Syria including top Vatican officials and peace building experts but it was seen as politically risky and potentially dangerous.
Sarah, a Guinean cardinal, heads up the Cor Unum Pontifical Council, a Vatican department that oversees the Catholic Church’s charity work.
Benedict said that Sarah in Lebanon will meet spiritual leaders and faithful from Christian churches present in Syria, hold a coordination meeting of Catholic charities and meet with refugees who have fled Syria.
Sarah’s mission to Lebanon began on Wednesday and will last until Saturday.
See also page 24 and 25