22 November 2012
Turkey has officially made its long-expected request to NATO for the deployment of Patriot systems along its Syrian border after it received guarantees that its demand would be unequivocally approved by the allies. In return, Turkey guaranteed that the deployment would only be defensive and that it would not “support a no-fly zone or any offensive operation.”
“Our request has been formally raised through a letter, which we submitted today at NATO. The NATO Council will shortly convene to address our request,” the Foreign Ministry said in a written statement issued yesterday afternoon, citing threats and risks posed by the continuing crisis in Syria as the reason for the move. “A decision has been taken to formally request that NATO support the augmentation of our national air defense by allied air defense elements.”
A simultaneous statement from NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen underlined that the military alliance would discuss Turkey’s request “without delay.”
“Such a deployment would augment Turkey’s air defense capabilities to defend the population and territory of Turkey. It would contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along NATO’s south-eastern border,” he said.
Rasmussen said the Turkish government stressed that the deployment would not be used in a way to support a no-fly zone, a military precaution Turkey has sought since one of its jets was downed by Syria in June. “If approved, the deployment would be undertaken in accordance with NATO’s standing air defense plan. It is up to the individual NATO countries that have available Patriots – Germany, the Netherlands and the United States – to decide if they can provide them for deployment in Turkey and for how long. Next week, a joint team will visit Turkey to conduct a site survey for the possible deployment of Patriots,” Rasmussen said.
With the request lodged, speculation is now focused on which of Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S. will deploy the Patriot systems as they are the only ones who have such defense elements.
“The move will likely be endorsed by the German Bundestag, if Berlin decides to supply the [weapons]. There would be no such problem,” a diplomatic source told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.
Turkey was expected to make its request on Nov. 19, but the talks were prolonged following both sides’ demands for guarantees from each other. NATO asked Turkey to openly state that the deployment would be defensive and that the supplier would determine how long Ankara can use the missiles for.
NATO message to Syria
“Turkey sought a guarantee from NATO that once it makes its requests, it will be unequivocally approved by NATO countries,” a NATO source told the Daily News. “The approval process will be a smooth one. We do not expect to see a problem. NATO already expressed its full support and solidarity to Turkey due to the integrality of the security of the alliance.”
Possible approval of the Turkish request by NATO will also send a clear message to Syria, according to many diplomats. “This will draw a clear line in the sand … although the main motive of the move is defensive,” a NATO source said.
Turkey invoked Article 4 of the Washington Treaty on June 26, after its jet was downed by Syria, and on Oct. 3, after five Turkish citizens were killed in errant Syrian shelling on the border town of Akçakale.