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DAMASCUS/BRUSSELS: Syria yesterday slammed as “a new act of provocation” plans by Turkey to site Patriot missiles along its border while Russia warned that such deployment could spark a regional conflagration.
Turkey turned to its Nato partners earlier this week to request the deployment of surface-to-air Patriot missiles to protect its troubled border with Syria, which is engulfed in a civil war that has cost some 40,000 lives. In its first reaction to Turkey’s request, the Syrian foreign ministry accused Ankara of causing “tension and destruction.”
The action is “a new act of provocation,” Syrian state television quoted a foreign ministry official it did not name as saying Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen sought yesterday to reassure Russia over the requested deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey near the border with Syria, saying it would be a “defensive only” measure.
Nato spokesman Carmen Romero said Rasmussen had told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a telephone conversation that such a deployment “would in no way support a no-fly zone or any offensive operations.”
Lavrov had earlier warned that siting the anti-aircraft missiles on the border might create a temptation to use the weapons and spark a “very serious armed conflict” involving Nato. “The more arms are being accumulated, the greater the risk that they will be used,” he told reporters.
Rasmussen told Lavrov that “such a deployment would augment Turkey’s air defence capabilities to defend the population and territory of Turkey,” Romero said. “It would serve as a deterrent to possible threats and as such would contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along Nato’s southeastern border,” he added.
Nato’s other 27 member states are expected early next week to respond to Ankara’s request after military experts of the Atlantic Alliance study the question, a diplomat said. Violence across Syria yesterday killed at least 18 people, including three who died in a suicide car bomb attack in the northwestern province of Idlib. AFP