Rasmussen says Patriot missiles in Turkey will be under NATO command

Rasmussen says Patriot missiles in Turkey will be under NATO command
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said the command and control of Patriot missiles, which will be deployed on the Turkish-Syrian border against threats from Syria, will be under the NATO control Today`s Zaman reported.

Rasmussen told NTV news channel in an interview on Tuesday that the Patriot missiles will be installed by NATO allies and the command of the missiles will be under the NATO Command Control System. "Of course, Turkey is a NATO member country," Rasmussen said.

Turkey formally asked NATO last Wednesday to deploy missile defense elements on its border with Syria to boost its air defense systems as the conflict in its southern neighbor deepens.

The move highlights Ankara's fears that the situation on its border could deteriorate rapidly and echoes its calls for military support during the two Gulf Wars, when NATO deployed surface-to-air missiles on its soil in 1991 and 2003.

Turkey formally made the request after weeks of talks with NATO allies about how to shore up security on its 900-km (560-mile) border. It has repeatedly scrambled fighter jets along the frontier and responded in kind to stray Syrian shells flying into its territory.

Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz earlier said the NATO's Europe Command Control System will be the responsible in the command of the Patriot missiles and that there are Turkish officials in the system. Hüseyin Çelik, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) told a press briefing that the "Turkey will be holding the trigger."

Rasmussen added that the alliance won't hesitate to take "further steps" for the protection of Turkey and that the alliance will decide on the request of Turkey for Patriot missiles "within days."

Rasmussen added that a group of NATO experts with Turkish officials are making exploration in Turkey to figure out the best sites where the Patriot missiles will be deployed.

Speaking about Russia's concern over the deployment of the Patriot missiles, Rasmussen said Moscow's anxiety is not based on legitimate concerns.

Russia said openly last Thursday that it opposes deployment of NATO Patriot missiles on Turkey's border with Syria, a sign of deepening tensions across the region over the Syrian crisis.

Asked about the financing of the missiles, Rasmussen said the host country will take the financial burden of the Patriot missiles. He said the missiles have sufficient deterrence capability against any threats in the region.

Germany, the Netherlands and the United States, are the only three NATO allies with appropriate Patriot surface-to-air missile systems available.

The Patriot missiles deployed to Turkey during the Gulf Wars were provided by the Netherlands.

Ankara twice this year has invoked Article 4 of the NATO charter which provides for consultations when a member state feels that its territorial integrity, political independence or security is under threat.

But some experts said deploying Patriots to Turkey would be partly symbolic, aimed at showing that NATO was behind Turkey.

Manufacturer Raytheon says Patriot provides "a reliable and lethal capability to defeat advanced threats, including aircraft, tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and UAVs (drones)".

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