The US State Department has said Washington has not received a formal request from NATO for the deployment of Patriot missiles on the Syrian border in Turkey.
“We've been working within NATO and with Turkey to look at what other defensive support Turkey might require. My understanding is that as of today, we haven't had a formal request of NATO,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a daily press briefing on Wednesday. She added that the US has reinforced security in its only Muslim NATO ally, Turkey, with Patriot missiles in the past.
She stated that Washington is obviously looking at the full range of options to ensure that Turkey remains safe and secure.
When asked if the Patriot deployment would mean a safe zone inside Syria, Nuland declined to comment but said the US continues to study whether establishing a no-fly zone makes sense and how it might work. She said with regard to the possible deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey, Patriot is a defensive system and that it's responsible for knocking down incoming missiles, “so its purpose would be to defend the territory of Turkey.”
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking during a visit to Indonesia, said Turkey has not made any request to NATO for missile deployment. “There has been no such request,” he told reporters.
In Brussels, a NATO spokeswoman said the alliance has not received a request from Turkey yet, reiterating Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen's remarks earlier in the week that NATO will consider such a request when it is made by an ally.
NATO deployed Patriot missile defense systems in Turkey twice in the past, responding to Turkish requests for protection in the course of the Iraqi war.
Erdoğan said Turkey expected NATO member US to take “different” steps in regard to Syria, adding that he will have “top-level discussions” on this issue.
Turkish officials have said Ankara, which seeks the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, expects the US administration to get involved more actively in efforts to end the crisis in Syria once the presidential elections are over.
Turkey already requested NATO consultations under Article 4 of the alliance's charter when five Turkish civilians were killed last month by a mortar bomb fired from Syria. Ankara, however, has fallen short of invoking Article 5, the collective defense clause.
Nuland said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hasn't spoken with her Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoğlu, on this issue but the US is continuing talks within NATO about what might be needed.
She said the last time Clinton spoke to Davutoğlu “was a couple of weeks ago, but we are expecting that they will talk again soon, but not necessarily on this issue but on the full package of Syria issues.”