Turkey wants NATO to sustain patriot defences

Turkey reportedly seeks extension of NATO patriot missile defence system along Syrian border

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

U.S. Patriot missile systems, such as this one at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep, are among the weapons included in an arms deal between Washington and its Gulf ally, Qatar, that's valued at $11 billion.

Turkey appealed to its NATO allies to support country’s missile defence system on the matter of intercepting Syrian rockets.

According to two people briefed during closed-door talks in Brussels, Ankara's NATO envoy appealed to the US-led alliance on Thursday to maintain that defence system, Reuters reports.

Turkish Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul, an influential man in NATO who was also in the Turkish delegacy, asked for support for Turkish airspace, media reports.

Germany as previously announced, will withdraw defence Patriot batteries and the US (United States) has agreed on a withdrawal in mid-October despite worries about Russian actions in the region.

German Defence Ministry also confirmed in mid-August, that the anti-missile defence systems in Kahramanmaras and the end of the mandate of 260 soldiers will be withdrawn towards the end of the reporting period.

Up to 300 US soldiers are in the southern city of Gaziantep, with a population of 1,4 million, near the Syrian border, in where soldiers operate Patriot missile launchers and radar stations.

The US Patriots have been in Turkey as part of a broader NATO mission since 2013 January.

France and Italy willing to accompany Spain

On the other hand, NATO is waiting for its allies to take the place left by Germany and the US.

The case of there being no replacements for both countries was questioned in the NATO's strategy along the frontier, especially after Russian jets violated Turkey's air space over the weekend.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday to reporters that he was prepared to send forces to defend Turkey.

“NATO has already responded by increasing our capacity, our ability our preparedness to deploy forces, including to the South, including in Turkey, if needed,” he said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, second from left, of Norway meets with U.S. soldiers during his visit to view the U.S. Patriot missile system at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey, Oct. 10, 2014 / Photo by Reuters

Meanwhile after withdrawal of the US and German Patriot missiles, only Spain was left in Turkey with its Patriots. Spain underlined that it will not act alone in Turkey.

"What we are not going to do is be the only battery, as that would stop being effective. Everyone understands that," said Spain's Defence Minister Pedro Morenes.

According to Reuters, despite there being no official statement, it is understood that France and Italy will be willing to join Spain.

The decision had been made many months ago

The US Defence Minister Ash Carter told reporters that the withdrawal of the missiles decision had been made "many months ago."

“It has a purpose, which is to bring the unit back where it's going to be modernized. So that's a longstanding issue,” he added.

Carter also made the issue of Spanish missiles clear in Turkey by saying that the Patriots will remain there.

“There remain Patriots belonging to NATO nations in Turkey. I just discussed with the Spanish defence minister over the last couple of days Spain's intentions, for example, to retain their Patriot battery in Turkey. So there will remain Patriot batteries in Turkey,” he said.

Defence Minister of Germany Ursula von der Leyen stressed that they will not give up on withdrawing Patriot batteries in Turkey next week and most of operating soldiers are expected to be withdrawn before Christmas.

Germany will withdraw all soldiers and materials by the end of January.

"This decision (to withdraw the Patriots) is right," von der Leyen told reporters after meeting.

"The question is what danger can be warded off in which way," she said. The comments appeared to suggest that the Turkish air force was capable of intercepting fighter jets.

Turkey will be supported

According to a statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, the US will maintain its military support to Turkey.

“The United States will maintain in-theater capability to rapidly transport and support emergent Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) requirements, and is prepared to sustain the current deployment site in a cold-basing status to facilitate future deployments of U.S. Patriots. If needed, the United States is prepared to return Patriot assets and personnel to Turkey within one week,” said the ministry.

Violation of Turkish airspace occurred on Sunday and Saturday by way of  Russian SU-30 fighter jets. The four-and-half year Syrian conflict has become a NATO and Russian issue.

Russian military support crew attach a satellite guided bomb to SU-34 jet fighter at Hmeimim airbase in Syria, Oct. 3, 2015 / Photo by AP

Turkey as a NATO member, considers an attack on Turkey as being an attack on NATO.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during talks with Brussels, after violation of air space was actualised by Russian fighter jets "An attack on Turkey means an attack on NATO."

Erdogan made indication to the close relationship of Turkey with Russia, “Our positive relationship with Russia is known. But if Russia loses a friend like Turkey, with whom it has been cooperating on many issues, it will lose a lot, and it should know that.”

France and Britain, NATO's two main European powers, are understood to be willing to see the alliance use its new 5,000-strong rapid reaction force beyond NATO borders, which could potentially help stabilize post-conflict governments in Libya or Syria.


TRTWorld and agencies