Turkey sees no imminent chemical weapons threat from Syria

Turkey sees no imminent chemical weapons threat from Syria
# 20 December 2012 19:14 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Turkey does not expect Syria to use chemical weapons in the near future but wants to be prepared given that there is such a risk, Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu has said, APA reports quoting Today's Zaman.

“We do not see an imminent chemical weapon danger but the risk always exists. There is always risk if you have chemical weapons and the necessary missile capability,” DavutoÄŸlu said at a press conference with his Finnish counterpart, Erkki Tuomioja, in Helsinki late on Wednesday.

US officials say they have intelligence that Syria is moving the components of chemical weapons and warned that the use of such weapons is a “red line” that could trigger military action. Syria has denounced claims that it could use chemical weapons and warned about the opposition forces fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad using them instead.

Asked if Turkish intelligence has information regarding Syrian chemical weapons, DavutoÄŸlu said there has been no use of chemical weapons but added that there was a ballistic missile threat, referring to Scud missile attacks by Syrian forces on opposition targets in the country's north about 10 days ago.

Turkey has asked NATO to send Patriot anti-missile systems to boost its air defenses, a request NATO has accepted readily. The US, Germany and the Netherlands have all agreed to send two Patriot systems each to Turkey. They are expected to be operational by the end of next month or early February.

DavutoÄŸlu also said the collapse of the Assad regime is now a “matter of time” and added that it was up to the international community to determine how fast the transition will be completed and prevent further disasters.

The foreign minister, who has recently said he would rather resign than shake hands with Assad if the embattled Syrian leader stays in power, said no regime that fights against its own people can survive, giving Iraq's Saddam Hussein and former Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic as examples.

The US and Europe have called for Assad's withdrawal but remain reluctant towards the idea of military intervention in Syria. Responding to a question, Tuomioja said military intervention is not on the table but added that the UN could perhaps form an international force to prevent violence during the transition period.

Turkey, once a close ally of the Assad regime, is one of its staunchest opponents. Ankara has been a main backer of the opposition forces trying to topple Assad and has led calls for more international pressure on the Syrian regime.

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