Syria says Turkey's bid for NATO missiles "provocative"

Fri Nov 23, 2012 6:56pm EST
 

By Erika Solomon

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria on Friday condemned Turkey's request for NATO to deploy Patriot defense missiles near their common border, calling it "provocative", after a spate of clashes there that has raised fear of the Syrian civil war embroiling the wider region.

The 20-month-old uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has turned increasingly bloody and heavy fighting has often erupted right along Syria's northern border with Turkey. Ankara has repeatedly scrambled fighter jets and responded in kind to stray shells and mortars flying into its territory.

In the first Syrian response to Ankara's request earlier this week, a ministry source told Syrian state television that Damascus would hold Turkey's prime minister responsible for increasing tensions along the frontier.

Turkey's missile request may have riled Damascus and its allies - notably Russia and Iran - because it could be seen as a first step toward implementing a no-fly zone.

Syrian rebels have been requesting a no-fly zone to help them hold territory against a government with overwhelming firepower from the air, but most foreign governments are loath to impose one for fear of getting sucked into the conflict.

The Patriot system is designed to intercept aircraft or missiles. Turkey asked for it after weeks of talks with its NATO allies about how to shore up its 900-km (560 mile) border, where it fears security may crumble as the Syrian army fights harder to contain the rebels - who have enjoyed sanctuary in Turkey.

"Syria stresses its condemnation of the Turkish government's latest provocative step," the ministry source told Syria TV.

The source said that Syria would respect Turkish sovereignty but also said that it "holds (Tayyip) Erdogan responsible for the militarization of the situation on the Syrian-Turkish border and increased tensions".   Continued...

 
A Turkish soldier takes up his position near the border with Syria during heavy rain, as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 23, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh