Russia airs concern over Turkey's request for NATO missiles

Fri Nov 23, 2012 9:55am EST
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By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia emphasized its opposition on Friday to NATO's potential deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey near the Syrian border, which the Western alliance says would increase security and Moscow argues would undermine it.

NATO is considering the request for the surface-to-air missiles that alliance member Turkey has made because of fears of a spillover from the civil war in Syria.

As a non-member, Russia has no say in the alliance's decision, but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Moscow's opposition in a telephone conversation with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Lavrov "affirmed Russia's concern about plans to increase military capabilities in the region", the Foreign Ministry said.

It said he reiterated Russia's proposal for the establishment of a direct line of communication between Ankara and Damascus with the aim of avoiding incidents between the neighbors.

"The main concern is the more weapons there are, the greater the risk that they will be used," Lavrov said before the phone call, speaking at a news conference following talks in Moscow with Bangladesh's foreign minister, Dipu Moni.

The West has criticized Russia, as well as China, for vetoing three U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at putting pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end a conflict activists say has killed more than 38,000 people since protests began in March 2011.

Russia denies trying to prop up Assad, whose nation has been a buyer of its weapons and hosts a naval supply facility that is Moscow's only military base outside the ex-Soviet Union.   Continued...

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with the media after a meeting with U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Moscow October 29, 2012. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov