NATO delivers on promise to protect Turkey against Syria

NATO delivers on promise to protect Turkey against Syria
# 22 January 2013 17:51 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. The deployment of Patriot missile systems in Turkey, as part of the NATO's pledge to bolster its member state's air defenses, has started to flesh out, as ships carrying parts from Germany and Netherland docked Tuesday at Turkey's southeastern port of Iskenderun, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

NATO allies are also sending hundreds of soldiers to operate these batteries stationed in close proximity to Turkey's southern border with Syria as deterrence to possible missile attacks from embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's leadership in Damascus.

Earlier on Tuesday, Turkey's semi-official Anatolia news agency said that the Dutch Patriot missile batteries are being unloaded at Iskenderun.

The ship "Louise Russ," carrying the Dutch Patriot missile batteries with 160 military vehicles and 60 containers, waited near the Iskenderun port in Hatay province on Monday for NATO missile deployment, according to the report.

Besides, a part of Patriot air defense systems from Germany was taken to southern Kahramanmaras province of Turkey on Monday.

In October 2012, Turkey asked for an emergency meeting of NATO' s North Atlantic Council after a deadly mortar strike from Syria killed five civilians on Turkish soil, paving the way for the military alliance to decide to send missile defense systems to Turkey a month later.

Turkish analyst Gokhan Bacik believed that the deployment of these missiles could be considered the beginning of a new phase in the Syrian crisis. "It may bring a new twist to the crisis," he underlined.

The United States, Netherlands and Germany have each committed two missile batteries to Turkey. They are expected to be operational by the end of January. Turkey and NATO say Patriots are for defensive purposes only, a claim that was denounced by the Syrian government as "provocation."

Both Russia, the main international backer of Assad administration, and Iran, the staunch ally of Damascus, have criticized NATO's decision, saying the Patriot deployment would intensify the conflict in Syria. They also accused NATO for preparing the ground for de-facto no-fly zone in Syria for rebels against Assad's overwhelming firepower from the air.

"The actual deployment has internationalized the Syrian crisis further with the NATO delivering a strongest response yet to a threat originating from Syria," Mesut Cevikalp, Ankara-based Turkish expert, told Xinhua.

"We will see other players readjusting their positions vis-a- vis Assad regime," he predicted.

Russia already announced Monday it is sending two planes to Lebanon to start evacuating its citizens from Syria, an indication that Russia may be distancing itself further from Damascus.

The ruling Justice and Development Party in Turkey has taken a tough stand against the Syrian government in the 22-month crisis in the Arab country, while Turkey has been sheltering some 240,000 Syrian refugees and has so far spent 360 million U.S. dollars for them.

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