Turkey will formally ask NATO to set up missiles along its border with Syria as part of the contingency plans of the alliance due to growing concern about spillover of its neighbor's civil war, a Turkish diplomatic source said while speaking to Today's Zaman on Sunday.
“This issue is on the agenda within the framework of contingency planning for the security of Turkey and NATO territories. Turkey is going to apply NATO to deploy patriot missiles in the upcoming days,” a diplomatic source told Today's Zaman, confirming a German report without elaborating on the exact day of Ankara's request.
The Munich-based daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Saturday that Turkey, which is sheltering more than 100,000 Syrian refugees and exchanged rocket fire with Syria's military, is scheduled to make its formal request to NATO on Monday.
The Turkish diplomatic source also said that Ankara's goal is to get NATO's support for the deployment of the missiles on its border with Syria to create a de facto buffer zone against possible threats from its southern neighbor. “Our target is to get the support of NATO, Turkey's ally.”
Turkey has not yet made an official request to the alliance for the missile deployment, but the United States expressed its support for the positioning of Patriot missiles along Turkey's border with Syria.
“They have asked that we work with them to try to see what we can do to give them some missile defense capability. And we are working with them. And our hope is that we can help provide that kind of assistance,” US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said during an interview with Voice of America (VOA) on Thursday, adding that the talks and consultations between Washington and Ankara are ongoing.
NATO also expressed its support for Turkey saying that the alliance will defend its only Muslim member and has “all plans in place” to do so.
“NATO as an organization will do what it takes to protect and defend Turkey, our ally. We have all plans in place to make sure that we can protect and defend Turkey, and hopefully that way also deter, so that attacks on Turkey will not take place," Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday.
On the same day President Abdullah Gül said in an interview with the Financial Times that the Patriot missiles could be used against a possible chemical weapons threat from Syria that could be deployed with the old Soviet delivery systems Damascus possesses.
Turkey earlier was reported by international news agencies to be talking to its NATO allies about the possible deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missiles to guard against a spillover of Syria's conflict. This was denied by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who said that Turkey has made no any formal request to NATO for deployment of Patriot missile system along the Syrian border, but he added that consultations are underway with the defense organization. Rasmussen, however, made no specific remarks on the possible deployment of Patriot missiles.
Damascus has not signed a 1992 international convention that bans the use, production or stockpiling of chemical weapons, but officials denied in the past that it had any stockpiles.
Western countries and Israel have voiced fears that chemical weapons could fall into the hands of militant groups as the authority of Assad erodes. In July, Syria acknowledged for the first time that it has chemical and biological weapons and said it could use them if foreign nations intervened in the uprising against Assad's rule.