Nato to order deployment of Patriot missiles to Turkey’s border with Syria
Nato will order the deployment of Patriot missiles to Turkey’s border with Syria later today and has warned the Syrian regime that the use of chemical weapons will trigger an immediate response.
By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels
11:46AM GMT 04 Dec 2012
Anders Fogh-Rasmussen, Nato’s secretary general, warned Syria that the international community would not stand by if Bashar al-Assad unleashes chemical warfare against the Syrian people.
“The possible use of chemical weapons would be completely unacceptable for the whole international community,” he said. “If anybody resorts to these terrible weapons, then I would expect an immediate reaction.”
Nato’s declaration follows Barack Obama’s warning of “consequences” should Syria’s chemical weapon stockpiles be used by the regime in its bitter civil war with rebels.
“I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and anyone who is under his command... if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons there will be consequences and you will be held accountable," the US president said.
The West is hardening its response to the conflict in Syria and the United Nations today announced it is pulling “all non-essential international staff” out of the country.
Despite warnings from Russia that deployment of Patriot missiles would add to tensions in the Syria region, Nato foreign ministers will on Tuesday agree to deploy Patriot missiles to the Turkish-Syrian border.
“Turkey has asked for Alliance support and we stand in full solidarity with Turkey,” said Mr Rasmussen.
“I am confident we will demonstrate our determination to deter against any threats and to defend our ally.”
Turkey’s request for Nato to deploy the anti-missile batteries came after intelligence assessments that Damascus was contemplating using ballistic missiles, potentially armed with chemical warheads.
Nato has stressed that under current operational planning the missiles will not be used to escalate a military response to the Assad regime but the decision comes as the West seriously contemplates further measures to aid Syrian rebels.
“Any deployment would be defensive only. It would in no way support a no-fly zone or any offensive operation,” said Mr Rasmussen.
The Patriot missiles will be supplied by Germany, The Netherlands or the US and deployment is not expected for some weeks. Six Patriot batteries, with some 300-400 troops to protect them, will be deployed in support of Turkey on its border with Syria by the New Year.
On Monday, Russia, Syria's staunchest international ally warned against the deployment. "Creating additional capabilities on the border does not defuse the situation but on the contrary exacerbates it," Vladimir Putin, the country president said.
Last week, the European Union gave a “clear signal” that the West is ready to arm Syrian rebels within months, after Britain won a diplomatic battle to ensure that a ban on arming opposition fighters is reviewed early next year.