Syria crisis: Nato approves Patriots for Turkey

 

Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Nato was determined to protect Turkey

Nato has approved the deployment of Patriot anti-missile batteries along Turkey's border with Syria.

The long-expected move emerged from a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Brussels, and amid growing fears that Syria could use chemical weapons.

Nato's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the ministers had "unanimously expressed grave concerns" about the use of chemical weapons.

Syria has said it would never use such weapons against its own people.

The meeting of the 28-member Western military alliance's foreign ministers in Brussels follows a request from Turkey to boost its defences along the border.

In a statement, Nato said it had "agreed to augment Turkey's air defence capabilities in order to defend the population and territory of Turkey and to contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the alliance's border".

Analysis

Nato's deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries to south-eastern Turkey is essentially a gesture of reassurance to Ankara.

Turkey feels threatened by the growing crisis in Syria. Stray Syrian artillery shells have already come across the border on several occasions. Turkey fears that worse could follow.

Patriot is highly capable against both advanced aircraft and ballistic missiles. But Nato will underline that this is to be seen as a defensive deployment only. Patriot has no capacity to deal with stray shell fire.

While Patriot can reach into Syrian airspace, Nato is at pains to stress that this is in no sense a step towards establishing a no-fly zone over Syria. Nonetheless, Nato may also hope that there will be a deterrent effect that may dissuade Syria from operating its aircraft too close to the Turkish frontier.

Recent intelligence assessments have indicated Damascus is contemplating using ballistic missiles, potentially armed with chemical warheads.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Rasmussen told reporters that the foreign ministers had "unanimously expressed grave concerns" about the reports, saying: "Any such action would be completely unacceptable and a clear breach of international law."

He would not give further details on the deployment, but said it would ensure effective protection of Turkey against any missile attack, whether carrying chemical weapons or not.

Nato officials have previously made clear such a move would be purely defensive.

Rebel gains

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent James Robbins says Nato's move is an expression of solidarity with Turkey, and a signal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad he must not widen the war against his own people beyond Syria's borders.

Syria is believed to hold chemical weapons - including mustard gas and sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent - at dozens of sites around the country.

The CIA has said those weapons "can be delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile and artillery rockets".

Khoder, 7, Salah, 7, and Yousef Khodor, 6, (left to right) collect firewood outside a former sheep shed in northern Lebanon, where they now live.

President Obama has previously warned President Assad he would face "consequences" if he used chemical weapons against his people.

A Nato team has already visited a number of sites in Turkey in preparation for the deployment of Patriot batteries, which could be used to shoot down any Syrian missiles or warplanes that stray over the border.

But analysts say any deployment - possibly supplied by the US, Germany or the Netherlands - could take weeks.

Activists say more than 40,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country and another 2.5 million are internally displaced.

Syrian opposition fighters have reportedly made dramatic gains recently, and several government mortar shells - aimed at rebel targets close to the border - have landed across its 900-km (560-mile) border with Turkey.

Syria's chemical weapons

  • The CIA believes Syria has had a chemical weapons programme "for years and already has a stockpile of CW agents which can be delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile, and artillery rockets"
  • Syria is believed to possess mustard gas and sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent
  • The CIA also believes that Syria has attempted to develop more toxic and more persistent nerve agents, such as VX gas
  • A report citing Turkish, Arab and Western intelligence agencies put Syria's stockpile at approximately 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, stored in 50 towns and cities
  • Syria has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) or ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)

Sources: CSIS, RUSI

Although the head of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi told AFP on Monday that the Syrian government could fall "any time", it still holds the capital, parts of the second city Aleppo, and other centres.

In other developments:

  • A teacher and at least 28 students were killed when shelling hit their school inside the Wafideen refugee camp outside Damascus on Tuesday - state media said it was a rebel mortar attack but rebels blamed government troops.
  • A journalist working for a state-run newspaper was killed near his home in Damascus, said state media.
  • The UN said on Monday it was pulling "all non-essential international staff" out of Syria, with as many as 25 out of 100 international staff expected to leave this week.
  • The EU has withdrawn its mission altogether - the ambassador and head of delegation Vassilis Bontosoglou left Damascus with his six remaining international staff members on Tuesday morning.
  • Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi is said to have fled the country, amid reports he has been dismissed, ostensibly for making statements out of line with government policy.
 

More on This Story

Syria conflict

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 270.

    Yep you have totally missed the point what I am saying is that the story may have grain of truth but has been exaggerated to encourage further action against Syria.

    Do you really think there is a potential danger for turkey?

    Is Syria in a fit state to attack Turkey?

    If you believe what you read, my father is a wealth Nigerian minster, lend me £10,000 and I will give you back a million.

  • Comment number 269.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 268.

    This statement from the US/Nato/etc... is unnerving

    We now have an association in our heads of "Syria = WMD risk", but no evidence has actually been shown, instead we merely have a statement from certain world-powers.

    By publicly condemning Syria's *potential* use of chemical weapons a story has been created that otherwise might never have existed.

    A pretext for war is created by such things.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 267.

    Syria the stepping stone

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 266.

    This fight will benefit us in no way, at best we may get a moment of re-armament in the middle east, at worst we end up with another bloody conflict and let more innocent people die.

    On the flip side however, if turkey is in big trouble, it would not look good for the UK to ignore this.

  • Comment number 265.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 264.

    259.

    Okay, not I'm getting confused. You appear to be arguing that in spite of the Syrian government threatening to use chemical weapons against other countries, we should refuse to protect thousands of innocent Turks because the BBC did not use the words "terrorists" and "regime" in a manner that you approve of.

    Or am I missing something?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 263.

    When it comes to the middle east, there are time when you just wish everyone would leave them alone and let them wipe eachother out, it's a culture that lives in the wrong century and has no respect for human life. Unfortunately they have borders with more modern/civilised cultures, countries which have strong relations to the west, which is why we keep getting dragged into "help".

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 262.

    @254 - this article is not just about NATO missiles, it is about the NATO and US threatening Assad, again, as if it is our place to moderate the actions of one side of a civil war.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 261.

    248.
    frankiecrisp Hmm I don't remember use warning Hamas about firing the brand new missiles they got either, unless it was done very quietly. 249.
    Jon actually you will be surprised how Libya can now be quite democractic, remove the militias and idiots in it for themselves (no different to us) and actually they are sometimes more so than us...

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 260.

    249.Jon
    'I wish we'd stop getting involved. Both sides are as bad as each other.
    This is a civil war, not a democratic uprising.'

    It is a civil war now. It did originally start as a democratic uprising but the issues between Russia, China and US prevented a timely resolution. More failure and gridlock on the part of the UN while innocents are killed in the thousands

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 259.

    @251
    What do you believe is at the heart of the story?
    is it factual or just more propaganda to justify further action against the Syrian government?
    Why does the BBC report a car bomb killing Syrian civilians as an attack and not a terrorism?
    Why is the Syrian government called a Regime when the other regional administrations are called governments? How many elected governments in the region?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 258.

    Typical BBC- you draw a comparison between territorial violations of and by a protagonist and they censor you!

    Turkey has a history of territorial violation and genocide in countries bordering them- directly comparable to claims that have been made of Syria, by Turkey.

    There is no mention of Kurds on both sides of the Turkish border needing protection in this article.

    It is relevant.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 257.

    The USA certainly has double standards. They warn Syria about rockets etc but help and advise Israel on how to kill Palestinian woman and children with rockets etc.The problem in the USA is that there are no Arabs in either Congress or the Senate.Both houses are ruled by a majority of Jewish Congress and Senators.Say anything against Israel and you are anti Jewish in both houses.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 256.

    Protect Turkey by all means if it is attacked by Syria although unlikely given that Turkish Army is more than an a match for the Syrian clowns who pass as soldiers.Otherwise leave the Muslims to carry on killing each other instead of our trrops for a change.Why on earth do folk want to hasten the arrival of the bearded ones post Assad?

  • Comment number 255.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 254.

    I'm not sure I see the link between shooting down missiles (both conventional and chemical) aimed at Turkey and Syrian regime change?

    But then common sense was never that common among the lefties around here.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 253.

    158.Jimbo
    2 Hours ago
    141. the_Sluiceterer

    You may think its a worse county now, .... down to the people of the country to decide whether us helping to oust Gadaffi was a good or bad thing, not us?
    ====
    Asside from killing the USA ambassador, ISuggest you look for yourself:-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-20584573

  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 252.

    There's a whole host of actions that come between doing nothing and starting a war. Our focus should be not on forcing regime change which never ends well, but in helping to protect the innocent civilians who are caught up in this. That should be what we, and other civilized countries should focus on.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 251.

    245. "Do you honestly believe we have a justifiable reason for bring down the Syrian government?"

    What's that got to do with it? I'm talking about a justifiable reason for protecting Turkey from the threat of chemical weapons attack, like, er, not wanting people to get killed.

    In case you haven't noticed, a missile shield in Turkey doesn't help rebels bring down a government in Damascus.

 

Page 20 of 33

 

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