MOSCOW, November 23 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated on Friday Moscow’s concern over the possible deployment of US Patriot air defense systems in Turkey.
Turkey, a NATO member, has requested the deployment of Patriot missiles on its territory, saying the missile system is necessary to protect its 900-km border with conflict-torn Syria.
“Sergei Lavrov has reiterated Russia’s concern over [NATO] plans to boost its military capability in the region, and reaffirmed the need for direct dialogue between Ankara and Damascus in order to avoid incidents,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said following a phone conversation between Lavrov and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Rasmussen, who earlier stated that the deployment of Patriot missiles would “contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along NATO’s south-eastern border,” reassured Lavrov that the missiles would be placed for defensive purposes only.
US Patriot surface-to-air missiles were last deployed to Turkey in 1991 and 2003, during the two Gulf Wars, to protect the country from Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles.
Turkey has opened fire several times in recent weeks across its border with Syria in retaliation for Syrian shelling, which killed five Turkish civilians in October. It has also provided shelter to refugees fleeing the violence in Syria and has been one of President Bashar al-Assad’s harshest critics during the almost 17-month revolt against his rule.
Tensions between Turkey and Syria flared dangerously this summer after Damascus shot down a Turkish fighter that had violated its airspace. Turkey threatened retaliation if there was any repeat of the incident, although it admitted the plane had mistakenly strayed slightly into Syria.