Turkish President says NATO mulling missiles for Turkey

Reuters , Thursday 8 Nov 2012

Despite he said he had no intention of going to war with Syria, President Gul confirms Turkey is in talks with the NATO about deploying a defence system in the Turkish soil to counter a potential missile threat from Syria

Turkish soldiers stand guard on the Turkish-Syrian border in the town of Ceylanpinar in Sanliurfa province, November 8, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

Turkish President Abdullah Gul confirmed on Thursday that Ankara was in talks with NATO about deploying a defence system on its soil to counter a potential missile threat from Syria.

NATO-member Turkey has already bolstered its own military presence along the 910-km (560-mile) border and has been responding in kind to mortar shells hitting its territory as a result of fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels.

A senior Turkish foreign ministry official told Reuters on Wednesday Ankara would be imminently lodging an official request with NATO to station Patriot missiles along the shared border to guard against more violence spilling over.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Gul said Turkey had no intention of going to war with Syria but that it wanted to take steps against any possible threat from its southern neighbour.

"When these type of potential dangers are out there, all the necessary precautions are taken. One of these precautions is to take measures to counter ballistic missiles, medium and short-range missiles," Gul told reporters.

"Therefore, for defensive purposes ... these types of contingency plans, have for a long time been considered within NATO," he said.

The alliance has deployed Patriot surface-to-air missiles to Turkey twice before, once in 1991 and later in 2003, during both Gulf Wars. The missiles were provided by the Netherlands.

NATO says it has not yet received a request from Turkey but that it would consider any demand at the North Atlantic Council, the alliance's most senior political governing body.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Wednesday that the issue of Patriot missiles had been discussed within NATO for "some time" and that a request from Turkey to deploy them would not be "surprising".

"As you know, in the past we have reinforced Turkey with Patriots. So we will await a formal request and then NATO will deliberate. But we're obviously looking at the full range of things to ensure that Turkey remains safe and secure," she said.

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