Turkey moves toward missile deployment
The nation's request for Patriot missiles is intended to protect the border with Syria.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 27/11/12
Turkey has formally requested Patriot missile batteries from NATO to bolster defenses on its southern border. A decision is expected as soon as this week.
A member of the Greek air force works on a Patriot missile at the Athens airport in 2004. Turkey has requested the Patriot system for its southern border from NATO. [AFP]
The request follows weeks of talks about how to shore up security along the 910-kilometre border amid increased concern over incursions by Syrian jets and artillery during that country's civil strife. Ankara officially asked the alliance for the surface-to-air missiles on Wednesday (November 21st).
"The final decision of [the] NATO council will be clear within a week," Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz told reporters in Istanbul on Saturday (November 24th).
Turkey's purpose in requesting the Patriot missiles is "for the protection of the widest possible area in Turkey," Yilmaz said.
Details of the deployment, including the placement and number of Patriot batteries, will be cleared by the alliance, Yilmaz said.
A NATO delegation will visit southern Turkey this week to decide where the missiles can be positioned, according to Turkish media.
Veteran diplomat Murat Bilhan, who headed the Strategic Research Department at the Turkish Foreign Ministry for years, said Turkey's request to NATO regarding the Patriot missiles "is not a test of war, but of confidence."
"All Turkey needs from NATO is a moral support," Bilhan told SES Turkiye. "There will not be an atmosphere to use the Patriot against anyone in the region anyways as we don't see such danger for Turkey right now. However, if NATO makes a gesture by setting the Patriots in Turkey, it would raise confidence and reputation of the alliance among Turkish people."
Ankara has promised that the missiles would only be used for defensive purposes.
"The security of the alliance is indivisible. NATO is fully committed to deterring against any threats and defending Turkey's territorial integrity," General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Friday (November 23rd).
Vokan Bozkir, chairman of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, said that Patriot system would prevent "any damage to the Turkish people and Turkey's territory."
Onur Oymen, former Turkish ambassador to NATO, said there are several questions over the alliance's missile deployments that need to be cleared before the missiles are brought to Turkey.
"The problem is about who exactly will control and manage these weapons," he told SES Turkiye." We have to be very clear here. If the NATO commanders will manage it, then it must be clear that whether they accept Turkey's recent decision of banning on Syrian Airlines flying into Turkish airspace."
Bilhan said the missile system's use would be limited.
"It's impossible to use these weapons without having NATO Council's decision, anyways," he said. "At this point as they will not stay here for a long time."