September 17, 2009 / 4:45 PM / 10 years ago

Turkey: Any Patriot missile buy not due to threat

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s foreign minister said on Thursday that any purchase of Patriot missiles from the United States was not due to a particular threat from neighbors but part of a modernization of the country’s defense.

The U.S. administration has notified Congress of a possible sale of Patriot PAC-3 antimissile batteries and related gear to Turkey, the only NATO ally bordering Iran. Turkey has not publicly confirmed the deal.

“This was something that was planned earlier, it is not something new,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference.

“We don’t assume any threat from our neighboring countries. This is clear. This is much more about a comprehensive approach to security and not because of any particular threat.”

Turkey has good relations with Iran, a country the United States sees as a possible threat. Turkey also shares land borders with Georgia, Bulgaria, Greece, Iraq and Syria.

This week Turkey has signed wide-ranging agreements with Damascus and Baghdad on security, political and economic cooperation.

Turkey and Syria agreed to abolish visas between each country.

A Foreign Ministry source, who declined to be named, said the price of the Patriot missiles would be much less than a previously quoted figure of $7.8 billion.

“The purchase of Patriot missiles is part of a sweeping modernization program of the Turkish Armed Forces,” the source told Reuters.

The United States said on Thursday it was abandoning plans to install a missile shield in eastern Europe and U.S. President Barack Obama said a stronger, swifter defense system would be put in place instead to protect U.S. allies against any threat from Iran.

The sale to Turkey would include 13 Patriot “fire units,” 72 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles and a range of associated hardware for ground-based air defense, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a notice made public last week.

Reporting by Paul de Bendern, writing by Thomas Grove; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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