NATO Patriots to cost Turkey $8.5 mln annually

NATO Patriots to cost Turkey $8.5 mln annually

NATO's patriot missile systems, requested by Turkey to protect it from a potential Syrian attack, are expected to cost Ankara 15 million liras ($8.5 million) annually, local media have reported citing the Turkish defense minister.

Ismet Yilmaz made the statement late on Saturday after he and his German and Dutch counterparts visited both the Dutch and German Patriot sites in Adana and Kahramanmaras near the border with Syria.

The visit comes after the final of six Patriot missile batteries deployed to Turkey was declared operational under NATO command and control on February 15.

Referring to the visit, Yilmaz said: "They asked us 'What is the annual cost of this [system] for you?' Of course, these Patriots have been deployed within the general principles of NATO. We said, 'We reckon that its cost for us in a year will be 15 million liras,'" Yilmaz was quoted by Anadolu news agency as saying.

"They asked the same question to the Dutch minister. Dutch defense minister [Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert] said 'For us, the cost will be 40 million euros ($53 million) in a year.' The German minister [Thomas de Maiziere] said like this and he did the right thing; he used the expression, 'There is no price for security,'" Yilmaz said.

NATO agreed in December to station two units each from three NATO nations (Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States) at the request of another alliance member Turkey, after Syrian shelling along the border killed five Turkish civilians in October. Russia has repeatedly protested the move, warning it would mean the direct involvement of NATO forces in the Syrian conflict, further undermining the already unstable situation in the region.

Turkey maintains it needs the batteries to shore up security on its 900-kilometer (560 mile) border with Syria. Damascus is believed to have several hundred surface-to-surface missiles capable of carrying chemical or biological warheads.

Patriot is an air-defense missile system with the capability to intercept some ballistic missiles as well as cruise missiles and aircraft. It was first used operationally in the first Gulf War in 1991.

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