* NATO chief, Russian minister talk by telephone
* Russia resists missile deployment near Turkey-Syria border
* NATO says Patriots would boost security, Russia says it
fears the opposite
* Turkey emphasises deployment would be purely defensive
By Steve Gutterman
MOSCOW, Nov 23 Russia emphasised its opposition
on Friday to NATO's potential deployment of Patriot missiles in
Turkey near the Syrian border, which the Western alliance says
would increase security and Moscow argues would undermine it.
NATO is considering the request for the surface-to-air
missiles that alliance member Turkey has made because of fears
of a spillover from the civil war in Syria.
As a non-member, Russia has no say in the alliance's
decision, but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Moscow's
opposition in a telephone conversation with NATO Secretary
General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Lavrov "affirmed Russia's concern about plans to increase
military capabilities in the region", the Foreign Ministry said.
It said he reiterated Russia's proposal for the
establishment of a direct line of communication between Ankara
and Damascus with the aim of avoiding incidents between the
"The main concern is the more weapons there are, the greater
the risk that they will be used," Lavrov said before the phone
call, speaking at a news conference following talks in Moscow
with Bangladesh's foreign minister, Dipu Moni.
The West has criticised Russia, as well as China, for
vetoing three U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at putting
pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end a conflict
activists say has killed more than 38,000 people since protests
began in March 2011.
Russia denies trying to prop up Assad, whose nation has been
a buyer of its weapons and hosts a naval supply facility that is
Moscow's only military base outside the ex-Soviet Union.
DETERRENT OR DANGER?
Russia and NATO also sparred over the possible missile
deployment on Thursday, when Lavrov's ministry said it would
"not foster stability" and Rasmussen said the alliance would "do
what it takes to defend our ally Turkey".
Rasmussen called Lavrov on Friday and in the "interest of
transparency, set out NATO position on (the potential deployment
of Patriot missiles in Turkey) - defensive only," NATO
spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said on Twitter.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in Ankara:
"Russia knows very well this is a defence system."
"No country, especially Russia, should need to express
concern over this subject," he told reporters.
"Turkey has a 910 km border with Syria which is currently
experiencing heavy clashes ... Turkey will take all necessary
measures to protect the security of the country and its own
people, this is a step based entirely on a defensive goal."
Before the telephone conversation, NATO spokeswoman Carmen
Romero said the potential deployment "would serve as a deterrent
to possible threats and as such would contribute to the
de-escalation of the crisis along NATO's south-eastern border".
Lavrov said it could have the opposite effect.
He told a news conference that Russia understood that no one
intended to drag the alliance into the Syrian crisis "but ... in
the military field, what is important is not intentions, but
"And when potential increases, the risks grow," he said.
Romero said Turkey has made clear the deployment would "in
no way support a no-fly zone or any offensive operations".
Russia has stated it will not allow a repeat of what
occurred last year in Libya, where it accuses NATO of
overstepping the mandate of a U.N. Security Council resolution
permitting military intervention to protect civilians and using
it to help rebels oust Muammar Gaddafi.