* NATO has twice deployed Patriot missiles to Turkey
* NATO says no request yet received from Turkey
* U.S. says looking at full range of steps to protect Turkey
* Two Turkish civilians wounded by gunfire from Syria
By Jonathon Burch
ANKARA, Nov 8 Turkish President Abdullah Gul
confirmed on Thursday that Ankara was in talks with NATO about
deploying a defence system on its soil to counter a potential
missile threat from Syria.
NATO-member Turkey has already bolstered its own military
presence along the 910-km (560-mile) border and has been
responding in kind to mortar shells hitting its territory as a
result of fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels.
A senior Turkish foreign ministry official told Reuters on
Wednesday Ankara would be imminently lodging an official request
with NATO to station Patriot missiles along the shared border to
guard against more violence spilling over.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Gul said Turkey had no
intention of going to war with Syria but that it wanted to take
steps against any possible threat from its southern neighbour.
"When these type of potential dangers are out there, all the
necessary precautions are taken. One of these precautions is to
take measures to counter ballistic missiles, medium and
short-range missiles," Gul told reporters.
"Therefore, for defensive purposes ... these types of
contingency plans, have for a long time been considered within
NATO," he said.
The alliance has deployed Patriot surface-to-air missiles to
Turkey twice before, once in 1991 and later in 2003, during both
Gulf Wars. The missiles were provided by the Netherlands.
NATO says it has not yet received a request from Turkey but
that it would consider any demand at the North Atlantic Council,
the alliance's most senior political governing body.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on
Wednesday that the issue of Patriot missiles had been discussed
within NATO for "some time" and that a request from Turkey to
deploy them would not be "surprising".
"As you know, in the past we have reinforced Turkey with
Patriots. So we will await a formal request and then NATO will
deliberate. But we're obviously looking at the full range of
things to ensure that Turkey remains safe and secure," she said.
Turkey is becoming increasingly concerned about security
along its shared border with Syria and has already summoned its
NATO allies twice this year over the issue, saying the alliance
had a duty to protect its own frontier.
Turkey's military has been firing at government military
targets inside Syria in response to mortar rounds launched from
its southern neighbour that have landed on its own soil since
five civilians were killed in a Turkish border town last month.
In the latest cross-border incident, two Turkish civilians
were wounded on Thursday by gunfire from Syria in the border
town of Ceylanpinar in southern Hatay province, a Turkish
The two civilians, a woman and a young man, were struck by
stray bullets fired from the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain just
across the border where Syrian rebels are fighting government
Turkey's Chief-of-Staff has said his troops would respond
"with greater force" if shells continued to land in Turkey, and
parliament last month authorised the deployment of troops beyond
But Ankara is reluctant to take any unilateral military
action inside Syria and while Washington has vowed to stand by
Ankara, it has found itself increasingly isolated and frustrated
by a lack of international consensus on how to end the conflict.
Ankara has this year twice invoked Article 4 of the NATO
charter which provides for consultations when a member state
feels that its territorial integrity, political independence or
security is under threat.
Turkey, which turned against Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad after the popular revolt against him began last year,
has allowed Syrian rebels to organise on Turkish soil and is
sheltering more than 110,000 Syrian refugees in camps.