World Bulletin/News Desk
NATO allies backed keeping Patriot missiles in Turkey on Wednesday, agreeing with Ankara that threats from the civil war in Syria remained serious, an alliance official said.
The Netherlands, Germany and the United States, which deployed the missiles to Turkey, must now take national decisions on keeping them there, the official said.
In Germany and the Netherlands that requires parliamentary approval. All three nations said they were in favour of keeping the missiles in Turkey provided they gained the necessary approvals at home, a NATO source said.
The three countries each sent two Patriot missile batteries and soldiers to operate them at the start of this year after Turkey asked for NATO help in increasing border security.
They were initially expected to remain for up to a year but no time limit was set.
NATO ambassadors discussed the situation on Wednesday and "agreed that the overall risks and threats to Turkey remain serious," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. They did not specify how much longer the missiles should remain.
"Ambassadors noted that the instability along NATO's southeastern border requires ... the extension of the deployment of the Patriot missiles," he said. "The nature of the mission will remain defensive only."
Turkey has been one of President Bashar al-Assad's fiercest critics, leading calls for international intervention in the conflict, supporting the Syrian rebels and providing shelter for nearly 700,000 Syrian refugees.
The frontier has become a flashpoint in the civil war, now in its third year, with shells fired from Syrian territory frequently landing inside Turkey, drawing a response in kind from the Turkish military.
Several top NATO leaders have voiced concern over Turkey's provisional decision in September to buy a Chinese missile defence system in a $3.4 billion deal in preference to rivals, including Raytheon Co's Patriot system.
Raytheon and fellow U.S. arms maker Lockheed Martin Corp , which builds PAC-3 missiles for the Patriot system, are considering ways to sweeten their offer to build a Patriot system for Turkey after Ankara said it could still back away from the deal with China, sources familiar with the issue said on Tuesday.Last Mod: 14 Kasım 2013, 09:34