French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius holds a news
conference after NATO gave the go-ahead to stationing
Patriot surface-to-air missiles in Turkey. REUTERS/Yves
NATO has agreed to send Patriot missiles to Turkey to
defend against a possible Syrian missile attack and voiced
grave concern about reports that Damascus may be preparing to
use chemical weapons.
"To the Turkish people we say: We are determined to defend
you and your territory. To anyone who would want to attack
Turkey we say: Don't even think about it," NATO
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after the
28-nation alliance foreign ministers took the decision at a
meeting in Brussels.
NATO-member Turkey repeatedly has scrambled jets along the
countries' joint frontier and responded in kind when shells
from the Syrian conflict came down inside its borders,
fuelling fears that the civil war could spread to destabilise
It quickly welcomed the move. "This decision is important, as
it demonstrates and re-confirms allied solidarity and unity
in practical terms," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a
Germany, the Netherlands and the United States plan to
provide Patriot missile batteries, the ministers said, but
they gave no details on numbers. Deployment is expected to
take several weeks, given the need for approval by national
parliaments and the logistics of delivering the missiles.
NATO ministers unanimously expressed "grave concern" about
reports that the Syrian government may be prepared to use its
chemical weapons, Rasmussen said. He warned earlier that any
use of chemical weapons by Syria would prompt an immediate
Turkey wants to reinforce its air defences to deal with the
threat of ballistic missiles from Syria, particularly a
potential chemical weapons' threat, a NATO diplomat said,
speaking on condition of anonymity.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he expected
the German parliament would approve Patriot deployment.
"I have already had several discussions with different
parties and my impression is that the placement of defence
missiles to protect Turkey in Turkey will get a broad
parliamentary majority," he told reporters in Brussels.
NATO says the measure is purely defensive, but Russia, Syria
and Iran have criticised the decision, saying it increases
After talks with NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Russian
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated Russian concerns that
the Syrian conflict was becoming increasingly militarised and
accused NATO of over-reacting.
"Yes, there were artillery strikes but we believe that they
were not intentional," he told a news conference.
Russia, which has a fractious relationship with the military
alliance, has been at odds with NATO over how to end the war
and has vetoed U.N. resolutions aimed at pressuring Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
Rasmussen said Patriot missiles would be effective as
interceptors, whether attacking missiles carry chemical
weapons or conventional warheads.
Asked whether blowing-up a chemical warhead in mid-air could
contaminate a wide area, a NATO official said: "Any damage
caused by a chemical missile attack that hits its target
would be much greater than any possible damage from an
Britain has told the Syrian government that any use of
chemical weapons would have "serious consequences", British
Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
U.S. President Barack Obama told Assad on Monday not to use
chemical weapons, without saying how the United States might
The United States has collected what has been described as
highly classified intelligence information demonstrating that
Syria is making what could be construed as preparations to
use elements of its extensive chemical weapons arsenal, two
U.S. government sources briefed on the issue said.
Western military experts say Syria has four suspected
chemical weapons sites, and it can produce chemical weapons
agents including mustard gas and sarin, and possibly also VX
Syria said on Monday it would not use chemical weapons
against its own people and Russia's Lavrov was sceptical
about the media reports that Syria was willing to use its
"It is not the first time that the messages appear ... that
Syrian authorities are transferring their stockpiles of
chemical weapons to other places or that they are willing to
apply these weapons," he said, according to an interpreter.
Moscow checked such reports, but "every time we get
confirmation that nothing of this sort is being prepared," he
NATO officials have said repeatedly the alliance has no
intention of getting involved in Syria's civil war, but they
are concerned about the situation on its border with Turkey.