BRUSSELS (AP) — Germany's defense minister said Monday he expects Turkey to make a formal request to NATO for Patriot missiles to bolster anti-aircraft defenses along the border with war-wracked Syria.
"It may be — I expect it — that there will be a request by the Turkish government to NATO today for Patriot missiles to be stationed on the Turkish border," Thomas de Maiziere said ahead of a meeting with his European Union counterparts in Brussels.
NATO's Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said no such request had been received yet from Ankara, but that if it was it would be considered "as a matter of urgency."
"The situation along the Syrian-Turkish border is of great concern," Fogh Rasmussen said as he arrived for a meeting with the European Union's foreign and defense ministers.
"We have all plans in place to defend and protect Turkey if needed," he said. "These plans will be adjusted as necessary to ensure effective defense and protection of Turkey, and if we receive a formal request from Turkey to ensure such effective defense and protection that request will be considered as a matter of urgency."
Fogh Rasmussen also noted that the deployment of the U.S.-built Patriots would not mean imposing a no-fly zone over Syrian territory, a key demand of Syrian opposition groups.
"If we are to deploy Patriot missiles it would be purely a defensive measure to defend and protect Turkey," he said.
NATO installed anti-aircraft batteries on Turkish territory during the 1991 and 2003 Iraq wars. They were never used.
Within the alliance, only the United States, Germany and the Netherlands have Patriots in their arsenals.