An advanced military team from Germany's Bundeswehr is in Turkey ahead of the planned deployment of Patriot missiles along the Turkish-Syrian border. The first missiles are scheduled to arrive in January of next year.
The soldiers are there mainly to answer questions such as rocket placement, team leader Lieutenant Colonel Manfred Stange said Tuesday.
The 39-soldier team arrived at the southern Turkish airbase of Incirlik Monday evening, and went by bus early Tuesday to Kahramanmaras, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the Syrian border.
"We want to be ready in Turkey at the end of January or the beginning of February at the latest," said Colonel Marcus Ellerman of the Air Defense Missile Wing 1 - Schleswig-Holstein.
The missiles will be taken from Germany by sea to Turkey, with the first transport scheduled to leave in early January of next year.
The German parliament approved the deployment last week, but it is still unknown exactly when the 400 soldiers expected to operate the missiles will arrive. The mission is time-limited to January 2014.
"Turkey is a NATO member, it is obvious that we will stand by our allies," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday.
Turkey requested the missile defense system in the wake of unrest along its border stemming from the Syrian civil war. Germany and Turkey have repeatedly stressed that the missiles are for purely defensive purposes.
"The mandate is clearly formulated, the purpose is distinctly defensive, in order to not become involved in the Syrian conflict," said Merkel.
Along with Germany, the United States and the Netherlands have also pledged to send Patriots to Turkey. They are the only three members of the Western military alliance that have the most advanced models of the Patriots, which are designed to intercept enemy missiles or aircraft.
dr/hc (AFP, dapd)