NATO begins deploying Patriot missiles in Turkey
NATO today began deploying Patriot missiles in Turkey to defend against threats from neighbouring Syria, the US military's European Command (EUCOM) said.
US military personnel and equipment arrived at Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey to support NATO's Patriot battery deployment at Ankara's request, EUCOM, based in the southwestern German city of Stuttgart, said in a statement.
The US will also transport some 400 troops to Turkey to operate two Patriot batteries supporting NATO's mission there. Additional equipment will arrive by sea later in January.
"The deployment of six Patriot batteries, including two each from Germany and the Netherlands, is in response to Turkey's request to NATO," EUCOM said.
"The forces will augment Turkey's air defence capabilities and contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the Alliance's border," the statement added.
EUCOM deputy commander Charles Martoglio said the Patriot batteries would come under NATO command "when set-up is complete and the systems are operational in the next several weeks".
"The deployment will be defensive only and will not support a no-fly zone or any offensive operation," EUCOM added.
The duration of the deployment will be determined by the contributing nations in coordination with Turkey and NATO, it said.
Germany, the Netherlands and the United States agreed to supply the ground-to-air missile batteries, which Turkey requested after repeated cross-border shelling from Syria, including an attack that killed five civilians.
NATO-member Turkey, a one-time Damascus ally, has turned into one of its most vocal opponents over the course of the civil war in Syria that monitors say has killed some 60,000 people.
The deployment will continue on Monday when two Dutch Patriot batteries will be transported to the port of Eemshaven, the Dutch defence ministry said.
The German defence ministry said that its Patriots would be shipped Tuesday from the port of Luebeck-Travemuende and would arrive at the Turkish port of Iskenderun on January 21.