Main opposition party criticizes Patriot deployment in Turkey

Main opposition party criticizes Patriot deployment in Turkey

Dutch Patriot missiles deployed to Turkey by NATO to defend member Turkey from any Syrian attack were set up at an airbase in Adana on Saturday. (Photo: EPA, Evert-Han Daniels)

January 27, 2013, Sunday/ 17:47:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), has again criticized Ankara’s foreign policy decisions, including the deployment of Patriot anti-missile systems, calling it an imperialist act of the government.

“We [Turkey] had 13 agreements with Syria during 1980-2002. Since 2002 the number has gone up to 49, including strategic cooperation memoranda and confidential agreements. And what has happened? We have come to the brink of war [with Syria]. There are no jobs in [the southern province of] Adana, but good luck with Patriots deployed to protect Israel,” said CHP deputy Muharrem İnce while addressing residents of Adana during a meeting titled “Urgent Democracy, Immediate Justice” on Saturday.

Slamming the government’s foreign policy stance during his speech in Adana’s Çukurova district, İnce noted that most of the agreements with Syria were reached during the administration of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

The CHP criticism came after the first of six Patriot anti-missile systems became operational in Adana on Saturday. NATO allies sent the surface-to-air missile systems at Turkey’s request to defend the country from any possible attack launched by Syria. The United States, Germany and the Netherlands are each sending two batteries to Turkey and up to 400 soldiers to operate them.

The frontier has become a flashpoint in the 22-month insurgency against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, with Syrian shells frequently landing inside Turkish territory and drawing a response in kind from Ankara’s military.

Harshly criticizing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s policy in the region, CHP Deputy Chairman Bülent Tezcan also said: “We are protesting imperialism in Adana, we are rebelling. You cannot shape this nation as you wish, you cannot erase justice and freedom. We will not allow that, we will not give up as long as the soul of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk [the founder of the Turkish Republic] and the CHP are still alive in this country.”

A missile battery consisting of five missile launchers sent by the Netherlands has been deployed next to an airport on the edge of Adana, a city of about 1.6 million and which is 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the Syrian border.

The defense systems are to be stationed around three southeastern Turkish cities -- German batteries in Kahramanmaraş, Dutch batteries in Adana and US-supplied batteries in Gaziantep-- and NATO says they will protect 3.5 million Turks from missile attack. All are expected to be in place and operational by the end of January.

Iran says attack on Syria is attack on Tehran

Iran and Russia, which have supported Syria throughout the uprising, have criticized NATO’s decision, saying the Patriot deployment would intensify the conflict.

Ali Akbar Velayati, an advisor to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on the day when the first of six NATO Patriots became operational along the Turkish-Syrian border that any attack on Syria is an attack on Iran and that Tehran will use any means available to keep President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in power. Syria has called the deployment of the Patriot missile systems “provocative,” while Turkey and NATO say that the use of Patriots is limited solely to defensive purposes.

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