The United States has agreed to send Patriot missiles to Turkey to protect it from potential attacks from neighboring Syria. Germany’s parliament was expected to green light a similar deployment later in the day.
The decision to send the Patriot missiles, along with 400 soldiers, to Turkey was confirmed by Pentagon press secretary George Little, speaking to reporters traveling with US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta on a week-long trip to the region. Little said Panetta had signed the deployment shortly before their plane arrived in Turkey from Afghanistan.
"The purpose of this deployment is to signal very strongly that the United States, working closely with our NATO allies, is going to support the defense of Turkey, especially with potential threats emanating from Syria," Little said.
Turkey requested the assistance from its NATO allies, after a series of shells from the conflict in neighboring Syria landed on its territory earlier this year. On several occasions, Ankara responded in kind - also scrambling fighter jets along the border.
NATO foreign ministers endorsed Turkey's request at a meeting on November 30.
Meamwhile, in Berlin, the Bundestag was expected to use Friday's session to approve the deployment of two batteries of German Patriots, along with 400 soldiers to operate them. Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet approved the move at a meeting last week.
The Netherlands has announced similar plans. The US, Germany, and the Netherlands are the only three members of the Western military alliance that have the most advanced models of Patriots, which are designed to intercept enemy missiles or aircraft.
pfd/msh (AP, Reuters)