MOSCOW, February 15 (RIA Novosti) – NATO representatives have assured Russia the deployment of Patriot missile systems in Turkey is not preparation for an offensive operation against Syria, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov said on Friday.
“The NATO leadership has assured us that the Patriot deployment is not preparation for armed intervention in Syria and will not be used to create ‘no-fly zones’,” he said.
“We have no reason to call these assurances into question,” he added.
However, the deployment of such systems along the Syrian borders is not conducive to the peaceful resolution of the Syrian problem, Meshkov 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.
NATO said in late January the first of six Patriot batteries being deployed along Turkey’s border with Syria was operational. The other five batteries are expected to be in place and operational in the near future.
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.