NATO on Tuesday agreed to deploy Patriot missiles to the Turkish border to help defend Turkey against threats from Syria.
“In response to Turkey’s request, NATO has decided to augment Turkey’s air defense capabilities in order to defend the population and territory of Turkey,” NATO foreign ministers said in a statement.
NATO member Turkey first asked for help after Syrian army shells landed on its side of the border in October, near rebel strongholds.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said concerns that Syria’s beleaguered government might resort to using chemical weapons against the rebels added urgency to the issue. He called any use of chemical weapons “completely unacceptable,” and said it would cause “an immediate reaction.”
U.S. President Barack Obama warned Monday that he wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to know that using chemical weapons would be a “tragic mistake” resulting in consequences.
Syria’s foreign ministry responded by saying that Damascus “will not use chemical weapons, if it had them, against its own people under any circumstances.”
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the situation in Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday in Istanbul.
Mr. Putin said he understands Turkish concerns about border security, but he cautioned that Turkey’s request for the NATO alliance to deploy Patriot interceptor missiles near Syria could exacerbate the situation.
Turkey and its Western and Arab allies are calling for the ouster of Mr. Assad, who counts Russia as one of his few remaining allies.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday violence across the country killed 198 people on Monday.
Syrian government forces bombed rebel positions in the northern town of Ras al-Ain, killing at least 12 people and prompting Turkey to scramble fighter jets along its southern border with Syria.
(Turkish Marine Special Forces during a 2005 Nato exercise: Nato.int)