* General, officers, soldiers and families cross into Turkey
* Turkey says steps up talks with NATO on border security
ISTANBUL Nov 16 A Syrian general and a dozen
other officers defected with their families to Turkey on Friday,
Turkey's state-run news agency reported, following heavy
fighting on Turkey's southeastern border with Syria.
Ankara said on Friday it had "intensified" talks with its
NATO allies on steps to shore up security on the 900 km (560
mile) frontier with the 20-month civil war in Syria at
State-run Anatolian agency said 53 people had crossed the
border - one general, 12 other officers and an unspecified
number of soldiers and their families.
They crossed into Turkey's southern Hatay province and were
sent by local authorities to the Apaydin refugee camp, Today's
Zaman newspaper reported on its website.
A foreign ministry official could not immediately confirm
the report. It follows the reported defection on Nov. 9 of 26
military officers, including two generals.
With winter setting in, dozens of Syrian military officers
are holed up in Turkish camps, along with about 120,000 civilian
Alarmed by the refugee influx and the instability on its
border, Turkey has called for the creation of a buffer zone
inside Syria and is in talks with NATO on the possible
deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missiles.
Concern in Ankara deepened this week with an air assault by
forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on the rebel-held
frontier town of Ras al-Ain.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Friday
Ankara had stepped up consultations with NATO.
"This week especially we intensified our consultations
regarding the security risks on our border," Davutoglu told
Reuters in Addis Ababa, speaking in English.
Turkey says the deployment of Patriot missiles would be a
defensive step, but it could also be a prelude to a no-fly zone
inside Syria to limit Assad's air power.
Turkey scrambled fighter jets to the border on Wednesday,
the third day of an air assault by Syrian warplanes trying to
dislodge rebels in Ras al-Ain. The town was largely quiet on
Thursday and Friday.