Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz vehemently rejected Turkish opposition claims that the Patriot anti-missile battery placed by NATO
on Turkish soil to guard the country from Syrian missiles
was intended to shield Israel
from an Iranian attack.
"It is not technically possible for a missile, the target of which could be 36 kilometers away, to intercept a missile launched from Iran to Israel,” Yilmaz told the Turkish paper Hürriyet.
“Some of our colleagues lodged claims that ‘the target of the deployment of these (Patriots) is aimed at protecting Israel from missiles to be launched from Iran,’ which does not at all comply with the truth," the minister said during a speech before the Turkish parliament.
Patriot battery on Syrian border (Photo: EPA)
According to Yilmaz, "It is not technically possible" for the missile battery to perform such a function, in light of the distances between the three different countries.
“Patriots are not weapons of attack. Taking into consideration the fact that it is solely a defense system, the firing authority should be held at the level that can fulfill legitimate defense in the most effective way. In this regard, the command of the Patriots will be held by the Allied Commander Europe,” Yilmaz said.
Turkey recently requested
that NATO place the Patriot missile battery on its border with Syria after a number of mortars and tank shells crossed into the country inflicting civilian casualties, raising fears in Turkey of a spillover of the civil war in neighboring Syria.
The patriot system is capable of intercepting planes and - under certain conditions – missiles.
Dutch soldiers charged with operating battery (Photo: Reuters)
However, Turkish opposition and even senior Iranian figures have expressed concerns that the move serves to protect Israel.
In January, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast
announced that the missiles were “placed by NATO and the West to protect Israel.”
Iran's army chief of staff, General Hassan Firouzabadi
made simmilar comments, saying, "Each one of these Patriots is a black mark on the world map, and is meant to cause a world war."
Three NATO members – the US, Holland and Germany – have committed to sending two batteries and 400 soldiers each to man them.
The promise came after Ankara requested aerial reinforcement, with concerns stemming from the Syrian side.
Currently five out of the expected six are operational,
and the sixth is expected to become so in the upcoming days.
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