Germany ready to keep Patriot missiles in Turkey
Germany has announced it is prepared to extend its deployment of Patriot missile batteries in Turkey if Ankara requires it, Anadolu Agency reported.
The announcement on Monday came a day after German press reported that NATO allies had begun talks on halting the mission -- which Ankara had requested in 2012 amid possible threats from Syria -- at the end of 2014, following the removal of chemical weapons from its southern neighbor.
Ingo Gerhartz, the deputy spokesman of the German Defense Ministry, said: "If they would need us and if there would be a demand, we can extend the mission for another two years."
He rejected reports in the German weekly Der Spiegel which claimed German moves to end the mission had been influenced by difficulties faced in rotating military staff deployed in Patriot units, as the German army lacked specialist personnel.
"It is not actually true," Gerhartz told journalists, stressing that large NATO deployments were always prepared to be extended for two years.
"At the end of this year, the mission will complete its two years. In terms of personnel, we are prepared to continue it for another two," he stressed.
German Defense Ministry deputy spokesman Gerhartz confirmed that NATO had made a review of its Patriot mission in Turkey late last month, but said such three-month reviews of deployments were routine.
"In this review, it was concluded that the level of threat had been decreased with the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons but, on the other hand, the rest of the risks remained unchanged," Gerhartz said.
He underlined that Germany saw the Patriot deployment as a very successful operation and a manifestation of solidarity among NATO allies.
"We have said it very clearly. If they would need us, and if there would be a demand, we can extend the mission for another two years," Gerhartz said.
The German parliament decided in late January to extend its deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey until 31 January 2015, with the possibility of a further extension.
The batteries have been stationed in Kahramanmaras since January 2013 and have been operating under the command and control of NATO.
The mission involves up to 400 troops from the German military.
The costs of the deployment, estimated to be around €25 million ($34 million) per year, are covered by Germany.
The U.S. and the Netherlands also operate two Patriot missile batteries each as part of the NATO mission.