Germany and the United States both agreed on Friday to deploy missiles and army forces to the Turkish-Syrian borders to help guard Turkey against possible Syrian attack as part of a NATO mission.
The U.S. will deploy two Patriot missile batteries to along with 400 troops as while Germany will be positioning its Patriot missile batteries 120 kilometers from the Syrian border in southern Turkey with a mandate that will run until Jan. 31, 2014
Germany’s government coalition parties, the main opposition Social Democrats and Greens had said they backed the move. Only the far-left Die Linke party was opposed.
The German foreign and defense ministries last week said the move was an “exclusively defensive measure, which as a means of military deterrent prevents the conflict inside Syria spreading to Turkey”.
Meanwhile, Moscow backtracked on comments made by a top diplomat admitting that Syrian opposition fighters might defeat its long-time ally Damascus despite Washington’s deployment of 400 troops to Turkey.
A Russian foreign ministry spokesman insisted that Moscow’s controversial support for Assad’s regime was unchanged and that Thursday’s remarks by Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov did not reflect official policy.
A foreign ministry spokesman insisted that Moscow’s controversial support for Assad’s regime was unchanged and that Thursday’s remarks by Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov did not reflect official policy.
But Washington swiftly welcomed Bogdanov’s remarks and announced its troop deployment as U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta flew to an air base in southeastern Turkey not far from the frontier where the rebels have rear bases.
The move coincides with rising fears the Syrian regime may resort to using chemical weapons against rebel forces and after Assad’s army unleashed Scud missiles in recent days.
The move was part of a wider NATO effort to bolster Turkey’s air defenses amid growing tension on the Turkish-Syrian border, with Ankara siding with opposition forces battling President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued the order before landing at the Incirlik airbase in Turkey after a visit to Afghanistan, his spokesman said.
“The secretary, as we are en route to Turkey, has signed an order that will deploy some 400 U.S. personnel to Turkey to support two Patriot missile batteries,” George Little told reporters aboard Panetta's plane.
“We expect them to be deployed in the coming weeks.”
Turkey is a “very strong ally” and the US government is prepared in the context of NATO to support the defense of Turkey,” Little said.
U.S. and European leaders have warned the Assad regime not to use its arsenal of chemical arms, calling it a “red line” that would trigger international military action.
Turkey has vowed to defend its territory after cross-border artillery fire wounded civilians and following the downing of one of its fighter jets.