ISTANBUL Dec 21 Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip
Erdogan said on Friday Patriot missiles being sent by NATO
members to bolster Turkey's defences against a possible missile
attack from Syria will be deployed near the southeastern cities
of Adana, Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras.
NATO approved Turkey's request for the air defence system
earlier this month, in a move meant to calm Ankara's fears of
being hit by Syrian missiles, possibly with chemical weapons.
Turkey, a NATO member, has repeatedly scrambled jets along
the countries' joint frontier and has responded in kind when
shells from Syria came down inside its borders, fanning fears
that the civil war could spread to destabilise the region.
"We made our application to NATO and they gave us six
batteries and they will be deployed in Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras
and Adana," Erdogan told broadcaster NTV in a live interview.
The United States, the Netherlands and Germany have agreed
to send two missile batteries each to Turkey along with around
400 troops from each country to operate the systems which are
designed to intercept missiles or aircraft.
While the batteries were expected to be deployed near the
Syrian border, Erdogan's comments were the first confirmation of
their location. NATO sent a reconnaissance team to Turkey last
month to determine the best sites to deploy the batteries.
Adana, Turkey's fourth-largest city, is located around 100
km (60 miles) from the Syrian border. The joint Turkish-American
Incirlik Air Base is also just outside the city.
Gaziantep, a city of around 1.5 million people, is further
to the east, some 60 km (35 miles) from the Syrian border.
Kahramanmaras, to the north of Gaziantep, has around half a
million inhabitants and is some 150 km (95 miles) from Syria.
While some foreign troops have already started arriving in
Turkey with some equipment, the Patriot batteries will not
arrive until early next month, with the missiles expected to be
fully functional by the end of January.
Each truck-mounted Patriot battery consists of a command
post, a radar to track incoming missiles, and up to eight
launchers with up to eight Patriot missiles each.
The system can simultaneously track 50 targets and shoot
down five. It takes about 85 soldiers to work one battery plus
Defence experts have said it would be a stretch for six
Patriot batteries to defend Turkey's 910 km (560 mile) border
with Syria but that they were usually stationed to protect
strategically important targets like big cities, military
installations or key infrastructure.
While both Turkey and NATO have maintained the Patriots are
purely for defensive purposes, Syria and its allies Russia and
Iran have criticised the NATO decision, saying it increases
(Reporting by Seda Sezer; Editing by Jonathon Burch and Jon