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Turkey assures Patriot missiles only for defence

US-made Patriot missiles will not be deployed right at Turkey’s volatile border with Syria but rather a short distance away, a move to reassure Russia that they are only for defence purposes, a diplomatic source said yesterday.

“We want to keep the missiles away from the border in order not to cause any misunderstanding with Russia and to make it clear that their deployment is purely to defend Turkish territory,” he said.

Nato last week approved Turkey’s request for Patriot missiles to defend its border against Syria following a series of blunt warnings to Damascus not to use chemical weapons.

Russia, a key ally of the Syrian regime, is opposed to the move, fearing that such a deployment could spark broader conflict in the region and also draw in Nato.

In Istanbul last Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that any deployment of Patriot missiles near the volatile border would exacerbate tensions.

“You know, as they say, if a gun is hung on the wall at the start of a play then at the end of the play it will definitely fire,” Putin told reporters after meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Why should we need extra shooting at the border? We are urging restraint.”

The diplomatic source in Ankara said the location for the deployment of Patriot missiles was very important.

“The Patriots will be deployed more than 10 kilometres away from the border but this will not compromise on the effectiveness of the system,” according to the source.

Nato said that Germany along with The Netherlands and the United States has agreed to provide the Patriot missile batteries, which would come under the command of the alliance. The German Government said last week it had approved deploying Patriot missiles to help Nato member state Turkey defend its border against Syria and will send up to 400 troops.

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