Turkey has asked NATO to extend for another year the deployment of Patriot missile batteries sent to Turkey by NATO countries after Ankara requested the Patriots last year to fend off a Syrian attack, according to a Turkish Foreign Ministry official, Today's Zaman reported.
"There has been no change at the Syrian border since last year. So the Patriots need to remain in place as long as there is a need and necessity," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Gümrükçü told Today's Zaman.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has sent a letter requesting the extension of the Patriot batteries' deployment to areas along the Syrian border in the southern provinces of Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş and Adana. The batteries have been in those provinces since last December. The extension request was necessary, as the Patriots' deployment is set to end after one year.
NATO countries were notified about Davutoğlu's letter by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Today's Zaman has learned. No problems are expected in extending the Patriots' deployment another year.
Six Patriot batteries were sent to Turkey by the US, the Netherlands and Germany as part of a NATO decision to boost Turkey's air defenses against a Syrian missile attack. Only Germany, due to its laws, needs to ask its legislature to approve the extension request.
Military sources say a Syrian attack on Turkey is a remote possibility because it would trigger a collective NATO retaliation against Syria under Article 5 of the alliance's charter, known as the collective defense clause.
After the Patriots' deployment, "NATO allies will continue to consult, keep situation in Syria under close review and continue to assist Turkey," Rasmussen tweeted in the beginning of the year.
"The risk of a Syrian missile attack is still alive," NATO Parliamentary Assembly President Hugh Bayley told Today's Zaman in an exclusive interview last week.
"The simple fact is that there have been a number of incidents on the border. This is why Turkey requested the alliance's support and the allies decided to reinforce Turkey's air defenses with Patriot deployments last December," Bayley said.
When a NATO assembly delegation visited the Dutch Patriot battery in Adana in September, they were told about ongoing missile activity on the Syrian side of the border, according to Bayley.