Failing to form a coalition government two months after the September elections, Germany, one of the three NATO countries that sent Patriot batteries to Turkey last year to fend off a Syrian attack, is still yet to decide on extending the deployment of the batteries in Turkey for one more year, Today's Zaman reported.
Germany needs to vote on the extension of the Patriot deployment decision in the federal parliament, the Bundestag, when a coalition government is formed. The coalition talks in Germany have been going on since the September elections with no success so far.
The German Embassy in Ankara declined to comment on the issue when asked by Today's Zaman.
Turkish diplomatic sources told Today's Zaman that Turkey does not expect any problems regarding the extension of the Patriot batteries.
Turkey requested six Patriot batteries from NATO to defend its airspace against Syria, following cross-border artillery fire and a chemical weapons threat from Syria at its southern border last year. Three NATO countries, the US, the Netherlands and Germany, decided to send Patriot batteries to Turkey under NATO command. The batteries were deployed in Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş and Adana last December.
As the Patriots' deployment is set to end next month, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu sent a letter to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Nov. 8 requesting the extension of the batteries' deployment to areas along the Syrian border in Turkey.
US, Netherlands to extend Patriot deployment
The US and the Netherlands have decided to extend the deployment of batteries for one more year. US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told Davutoğlu in Washington on Monday that the US would provide the batteries for an additional year.
"This renewal of the Patriot deployment is and will remain defensive only and represents a concrete demonstration of alliance solidarity and resolve," assistant Pentagon press secretary Carl Woog said in a statement after the Davutoğlu-Hagel meeting.
The Netherlands government has also decided to extend the Patriot batteries' deployment in Adana province. Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans told press members after a cabinet meeting last week that the threats from the civil war in Syria in the region remain serious. Two Dutch Patriot batteries have been in Adana province since last December.
'Germany still weighing Turkey's request'
A spokesman for the German Embassy in Washington said on Monday that his government was still weighing Turkey's request to extend the deployment of two German-owned Patriot batteries by a year, reported Stars and Stripes, the US military's independent news source.
Even though German Chancellor Angela Merkel won the election with 42 percent of the vote and gained 50 percent of the seats in the Sept. 22 federal elections, coalition partner the Free Democratic Party (FDP) failed to get 5 percent of the vote and lost all its seats. Therefore Merkel is in coalition negotiations with the main opposition party, the Social Democrats (SPD).
US batteries being returned to US for maintenance
The US batteries that have been in place for most of the past year were in the process of being returned to the United States for maintenance, and two replacement batteries were being set up when Hagel announced the decision, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Firman said Monday.
The new batteries are operated by the 5th Battalion of the 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment out of Germany, Firman added.
"Ultimately, the mission does not change," Firman said. "What is changing is the personnel and the timeline."