Turkey president says Syrian attack unlikely

AFP , Thursday 29 Nov 2012

A day after NATO began a survey of sites near the Syrian border that would serve as locations for the deployment of Patriot missiles, President Gul say a threat against Turkey by Syria is unlikely because that would be madness

Turkish soldiers take up positions near the border with Syria, in the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 22, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Thursday he considered a Syrian attack on Turkey unlikely because that would be "madness", as Ankara asked NATO to deploy surface-to-air missiles along their volatile border.

"I honestly think that a direct threat against Turkey by Syria is unlikely because that would be madness," Gul said, quoted by the Anatolia news agency.

He spoke a day after a team of NATO experts began a survey of sites near the Syrian border that would serve as suitable locations for the deployment of US-made Patriot missiles.

Gul said the deployment would be for defensive purposes only, calling it a "precautionary measure" to minimise any dangers emanating from Syria.

"An attack (by Turkey on Syria) is out of the question," he added.

Turkey turned to its NATO allies and placed an official request for the deployment of Patriot missiles after a series of cross-border shellings, including an attack that left five civilians dead last month.

NATO has yet to formally respond to the request.

But the Syrian regime's allies Russia and Iran are deeply opposed to the move, fearing such a deployment could spark broader conflict.

The Patriots could be deployed in the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakir or Sanliurfa or Malatya in the east, which already hosts an early warning radar as part of NATO's missile defence system.

Turkey might receive up to six Patriot batteries and some 300 foreign troops to operate the system, which is expected to be supplied by The Netherlands or Germany, the two European providers of the US-made weapons.

Ankara has been strengthening its defences along the border with anti-aircraft batteries and tanks since June 22, when one of its F4 fighter jets was downed by Syria along with two pilots for a brief violation of Syrian airspace.

Last month, Syrian shells fired across the border killed five Turkish civilians including three children, prompting border units to retaliate against every shell to land in Turkey's territory.

After both incidents, Ankara asked the NATO military alliance to take measures to protect its border and contain the Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 40,000 people in 20 months and sent more than 120,000 refugees into Turkey.

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