Turkey says Iran's Patriot remarks ‘unacceptable' as Tehran has rockets

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan (Photo: İHA, Ahmet Topal)

December 21, 2012, Friday/ 15:18:00

Turkey's deputy prime minister has criticized remarks made by Iranian officials on NATO's decision to dispatch Patriot anti-missile systems to sole Muslim ally Turkey -- a deployment also criticized by Syria and Russia -- pointing to Iran's possession of long-range rockets.

Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Ali Babacan said that remarks made by some Iranian officials on the Patriot deployment in Turkey are “no doubt unacceptable” as Iran has rockets with a range of 2,000-2,500 kilometers, referring to the fact that these too could hit Turkey.

Iran has intensified its criticism this week of the NATO Patriot deployment in Turkey, adding fuel to a row between Tehran and Ankara over the Syrian crisis.

On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi criticized the deployment of the Patriot missiles, describing the move as "provocative."

Tensions between Turkey and Iran have risen over the Syrian crisis. Iran has been a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout the 21-month uprising against his rule, while Turkey has been one of his fiercest critics and has supported the opposition and given refuge to military defectors.

Despite the tensions, Turkey, which is heavily dependent on imported energy, relies on oil and gas imports from Iran and trade has continued largely unhindered.

Turkey asked NATO for the Patriot system, designed to intercept aircraft or missiles, in November to help bolster its border security after repeated episodes of gunfire and shelling from Syria spilling into Turkish territory.

Salehi's criticism came on a day when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cancelled a planned trip to Turkey.

On Saturday, Iran's army chief of staff, Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, also warned NATO that stationing Patriot missiles on Turkey's border with Syria was setting the stage for a world war.

Babacan told Parliament that the Patriots will be stationed in Turkey for a year but this period could be prolonged.

The Turkish deputy prime minister stressed that the Patriot missiles are for defensive purposes and that Ankara aims to de-escalate the crisis in Syria.

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