NATO missiles not for Syria no-fly zone - Turkish military

Reuters Middle East

ANKARA, Nov 26 (Reuters) - NATO surface-to-air missiles due

to be stationed near Turkey's border with Syria will only be

used to protect Turkish territory and not to establish a no-fly

zone within Syria, the Turkish military said on Monday.

Turkey riled Syria, Russia and Iran by requesting the NATO

surface-to-air Patriot system, designed to intercept aircraft or

missiles, last Wednesday after weeks of talks on how to shore up

security on its 900-km (560-mile) border as the conflict in

Syria deepens.

Syria, which called the move "provocative", and its allies

including Russia and Iran oppose any development that they

perceive could be a first step towards implementing a no-fly


"The deployment of the air and missile defence system is

only to counter an air or missile threat originating in Syria

and is a measure entirely aimed at defence," the Turkish

military said in a statement.

"That it will be used to form a no-fly zone or for an

offensive operation is out of the question," it said.

Syrian rebels, despite seizing swathes of land, are almost

defenceless against Syria's air force and have called for an

internationally enforced no-fly zone, a measure that helped

Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year.

On Monday, Syrian jets bombed the rebels' headquarters near

the border, opposition activists in the area said.

Most foreign governments are loath to impose a no-fly zone

for fear of getting dragged into the 20-month-old conflict.

A joint Turkish-NATO team will start work on Tuesday

assessing where to station the missiles, how many would be

needed and the number of foreign troops that would be sent to

operate them, the statement said.

Within NATO, only the United States, the Netherlands and

Germany possess Patriot missiles. The Netherlands has sent

Patriots to Turkey twice before during both Gulf wars in 1991

and 2003.

Turkey is reluctant to be drawn into the fighting, but the

proximity of Syrian bombing raids to its border is straining its

nerves. It has repeatedly scrambled fighter jets along the

frontier and responded in kind to stray Syrian shells that have

crossed into its territory.

Turkey - a major backer of Syria's opposition - is worried

about its neighbour's chemical weapons, the refugee crisis on

its border, and what it says is Syrian support for Kurdish

militants on its own soil.

(Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Hugh


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