German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière has said that if there is any military threat from Syria to Turkey, NATO will respond to defend alliance member Turkey.
Were Syria to use its missiles against Turkey and engulf it into an armed conflict, NATO would not abstain from operating its Patriot anti-missile systems being deployed along the Turkish border with Syria, Maizière said while talking to the German Neue Osnabrück Zeitung daily.
Commenting on the recent developments in the region, Maizière said that the Patriot systems being deployed by alliance members following a Turkish request are “only for defense purposes,” and will not be used with the aim of bringing Syria into a new war.
“The deployment of the Patriots will mitigate the negative influence of the ongoing crisis in the country [Syria],” Maizière said, mentioning the disincentive aspect of these kind of deployments staged during the Cold War. Maizière also said that as NATO is not sure of its ally's security in the region, “We were obliged to set up this safety shield.”
Netherlands' Patriot missile systems unloaded in Hatay
Patriot anti-missile systems sent to Turkey upon a request to NATO from Ankara have already been started to be unloaded in the port of İskenderun in the southern province of Hatay.
Gibraltar-flagged ship Louise Russ, carrying the Dutch Patriots, approached the harbor in İskenderun on Tuesday after waiting offshore for two days in the Gulf of İskenderun.
The ship has started to unload 160 military vehicles together with 60 containers of military equipment as well as medical supplies and a maintenance crew.
The Patriot missile batteries will be deployed in Turkey as part of a NATO decision to support Turkey's air defense against a missile threat from Syria, where a vicious civil war has left at least 60,000 people dead. Violence has also flared along the Turkish-Syrian border. Shells fired from Syria have landed in Turkey, which has retaliated with artillery fire. The US, Germany and the Netherlands each agreed to provide two Patriot batteries each to protect NATO ally Turkey.
The Patriots sent from Germany will be deployed in the province of Kahramanmaraş, while the Patriot systems shipped from the Netherlands will be deployed in Adana. The US Patriot anti-missile batteries, however, are to be deployed in the southern province of Gaziantep. As a province bordering Syria, Gaziantep hosts thousands of Syrian refugees who fled the violence in Syria.
A Denmark-flagged Suecia Seaways ship carrying German Patriots has already departed from the port of İskenderun after unloading its military vehicles on Monday. The military vehicles from the Suecia Seaways ship were transported to Kahramanmaraş by military cars and civilian trucks under strict security measures. En route to Kahramanmaraş, German soldiers driving the military cars were accompanied by Turkish officers.
NATO troops began installing Patriot missiles batteries in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş on Tuesday.
Along with the military vehicles, there were 130 containers of military equipment, which were sent to Kahramanmaraş in a convoy of 45 vehicles.