The United States on Monday announced its decision to maintain for at least another year the deployment of Patriot missile defense systems in Turkey that are intended to safeguard the NATO member against possible ballistic-missile attacks by Syria.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel conveyed the decision to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during a bilateral meeting at the Pentagon. Ankara earlier this month was reported to have asked NATO to approve a one-year extension of the fielding of antimissile systems by the United States, Germany and the Netherlands as the security situation in neighboring Syria has not abated. Six Patriot batteries -- supplied by the three alliance countries and under NATO command-and-control -- have been fielded along Turkey's border with Syria since the beginning of the year.
"The United States is committed to maintaining regional security, and supports efforts with Turkey and other allies and partners to ensure regional stability and deterrence against common threats," Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog said in a Monday press release. "This renewal of the Patriot deployment is and will remain defensive only and represents a concrete demonstration of alliance solidarity and resolve."
It was not clear as of press time whether the Dutch and German governments would also agree to maintain deployment of their own Patriot systems in Turkey.
The U.S. military is fielding its two Patriot batteries at Gaziantep.
NATO approved the Patriot mission in Turkey amid concerns that Syrian President Bashar Assad might order chemical-weapon attacks on Turkey or lose control of part of his unconventional arsenal to opposition forces that have been battling his regime for more than two years. However, in recent months Damascus agreed to give up control of and destroy its entire chemical stockpile under an agreement worked out with the U.N. Security Council.
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.