ANKARA - Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday that NATO member Ankara would formally ask the alliance for Patriot missiles to protect its border with conflict-wracked Syria. “(Patriots) are a precautionary measure, for defence in particular,” Davutoglu told reporters before he left Ankara for Gaza. “We will submit the formal request as soon as possible.” Davutoglu’s comments came a day after NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance had received no formal request from Turkey for the surface-to-air missiles, but that it would consider the matter with “urgency” if a request was made.
Davutoglu did not elaborate on the details of the Patriot deployment but said Ankara was “in the last phase of talks” before the request went through.
Turkey’s border villages have been hit by artillery fire from Syria as forces loyal to Damascus battle rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
“It is the very mission of NATO to supply the security of its members, when one of them is threatened by this level of border violations and faced with even further risks, like ballistic missiles,” Davutoglu said.
Ankara has been strengthening its defences along the border with anti-aircraft batteries and tanks since June 22, when one of its F4 fighter jets was downed by Syria along with two pilots for a brief violation of Syrian airspace.
Turkey’s ties with its former ally Syria hit a new low on October 3 when Syrian shells fired across the border killed five Turkish civilians, three of them children.