BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO gave the go-ahead on Tuesday to stationing Patriot surface-to-air missiles in Turkey to protect the country from any spillover of the civil war in neighboring Syria.
“In response to Turkey’s request, NATO has decided to augment Turkey’s air defense capabilities in order to defend the population and territory of Turkey,” NATO foreign ministers said in a statement.
Russia, Syria and Iran have criticized Turkey’s request to the alliance to send the Patriots which can be used to intercept missiles.
Turkey asked NATO for the missiles in November after weeks of talks with allies about how to shore up security on its 900-km (560-mile) border. It has repeatedly scrambled fighter jets along the frontier and responded in kind to stray Syrian shells flying into its territory.
A major player in supporting Syria’s opposition and planning for the post-conflict era, Turkey is worried about Syria’s chemical weapons, the refugee crisis along its border, and what it says is Syrian support for Kurdish militants on its own soil.
Turkey made similar calls for military support during the two Gulf Wars, when NATO deployed surface-to-air missiles on its soil in 1991 and 2003.
Reporting by Adrian Croft, Justyna Pawlak; Editing by David Brunnstrom