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, 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
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