NATO reassures Russia over Turkey missile deployment



Moscow: NATO representatives have assured Russia the deployment of Patriot missile systems in Turkey was not preparation for an offensive operation against Syria.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov said: "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'."

"We have no reason to call these assurances into question," he said.

However, the deployment of such systems along the Syrian borders was not conducive to the peaceful resolution of the Syrian problem, Meshkov said.

NATO agreed in December 2012 to station two units each from three NATO nations (Germany, the Netherlands, and the US) 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-km border with Syria.

Damascus is believed to have several hundred surface-to-surface missiles capable of carrying chemical or biological warheads.

NATO said in 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-defence 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.