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NATO military alliance plans to boost Turkey's defenses as tensions rise

The NATO move to aid Turkey's defenses comes at a time of heightened tensions between Russia and Turkey. The military alliance has not specified what the measures would involve.

The head of the NATO political and military alliance, Jens Stoltenberg has said the organization is planning to put in place measures to boost Turkey's defense.

Speaking in Brussels on Tuesday, the head of the 28-nation security bloc insisted the planned steps were not a result of the tensions following

Turkey's downing of a Russian jet

on the Syrian border.

Stoltenberg did not specify what the new measures would involve but said that the alliance has for many years helped Turkey with its air defenses.

NATO is seeking to engage with Russia to defeat the self-declared "Islamic State" (IS) group. "We have decided to address the need to support Turkey before the incident last week," he said. "The focus now should be on how we can de-escalate and how we can calm tensions."

Stoltenberg's statement came as foreign ministers from the 28 NATO countries assembled in Brussels for a two-day meeting to discuss Syria, Ukraine, Russia and future plans in Afghanistan.

NATO's plan is aimed at plugging in the gap created by the removal of Patriot missile batteries by Germany and the United States. Spain remains the lone NATO ally that has a missile battery in the region. The batteries were positioned along the border to thwart attacks from embattled Syria.

"We now are addressing how we can continue to augment the air defenses of Turkey, how we can continue to follow up the standing defense plans for Turkey," Stoltenberg said.

Rising tensions

Tensions between Russia and Turkey have soared since Ankara brought down a Russian bomber that it alleges had violated its airspace. The increasing tension has further jeopardized the prospects of a unified front to combat the self-declared "Islamic State" (IS).

Russia, which has refused to engage in talks with the Turkish leadership, said last week it had deployed its advanced S-400 air defense system at its base in Latakia, Syria, following the downing of its fighter jet last month. The modern air defense system can hit missiles and aircraft from up to 400 kilometers away.

North American role

"We need to support Turkey," Canada's Foreign Minister Stephane Dion said on arrival in Brussels for meetings with his NATO counterparts.

So far, the United States has deployed F-15 jets to Turkey while Britain has said it will also send jets to the region.

Germany and Denmark are sending ships to the NATO fleet in the eastern Mediterranean.

ap/jm (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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