Middle East

Turkey to ask NATO for missiles on Syria border: report

Free Syrian Army fighters surround a truck on which a weapon is mounted in the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province November 14, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

BERLIN: Turkey will formally ask NATO on Monday to set up missiles on its border with Syria due to growing concern about spillover from the civil war in its neighbour, a German newspaper reported on Saturday.

The Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which did not cite its sources, also said that up to 170 German troops could be deployed as part of the mission.

Turkey said on Friday it had intensified talks with NATO allies on how to shore up security on its 900-km frontier with Syria after mortar rounds fired from Syria landed inside its territory.

"As we have said before, there have been talks between Turkey and NATO and NATO allies on various issues regarding the security risks and challenges and possible responses to issues regarding Turkey-NATO territories," a Turkish government official said, when asked about the Sueddeutsche Zeitung report.

"Normally we could not reveal the nature of NATO deliberations while they continue," added the official.

NATO has said it will do what it takes to protect and defend Turkey. Turkey has said it is talking to its NATO allies about a possible deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missiles.

A NATO spokeswoman said she could not confirm the report. "There hasn't been a request from Turkey. If there is a request from Turkey of course allies will consider it," she said.

NATO ambassadors would have to consider any request from Turkey and they have a regular weekly meeting on Wednesday but they could call a special one at any time. European Union defence and foreign ministers will be in Brussels on Monday for meetings.

A spokesman for Germany's Defence Ministry also said NATO would consider any request from Turkey and confirmed that the United States, the Netherlands and Germany were the countries that had the appropriate Patriot missiles available.

"If NATO were to ask Germany, we would consider that and bear in mind our duties in the alliance," the spokesman said.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had spoken to his Turkish counterpart, a ministry spokeswoman said, but she declined to say what they had discussed.

Even more than 65 years after the end of World War II, deploying troops abroad is a sensitive subject for Germans. It is unclear whether such a mission would require the approval of the Bundestag lower house.

The prospect of military action quickly set off alarm bells for some politicians.

"I can only warn against Germany and NATO letting themselves be drawn into the Syria conflict with no basis in international law," opposition Greens security expert Omid Nouripour told Spiegel Online.





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