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May 9, 2021

NATO approves Patriot missile for Turkey

NATO has approved the deployment of Patriot anti-missile batteries along Turkey’s border with Syria. The long-expected move emerged from a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, and amid growing fears that Syria could use chemical weapons. NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the ministers had “unanimously expressed grave concerns” about the use of chemical weapons. Syria has said it would never use such weapons against its own people.The meeting of the 28-member Western military alliance’s foreign ministers in Brussels follows a request from Turkey to boost its defences along the border. NATO said it had “agreed to augment Turkey’s air defence capabilities in order to defend the population and territory of Turkey and to contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the alliance’s border”. Recent intelligence assessments have indicated Damascus is contemplating using ballistic missiles, potentially armed with chemical warheads.Speaking after the meeting, Mr Rasmussen told reporters that the foreign ministers had “unanimously expressed grave concerns” about the reports, saying: “Any such action would be completely unacceptable and a clear breach of international law.” He would not give further details on the deployment, but said it would ensure effective protection of Turkey against any missile attack, whether carrying chemical weapons or not. NATO officials have previously made clear such a move would be purely defensive. NATO’s move is an expression of solidarity with Turkey, and a signal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad he must not widen the war against his own people beyond Syria’s borders.  Syria is believed to hold chemical weapons – including mustard gas and sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent – at dozens of sites around the country. The CIA has said those weapons “can be delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile and artillery rockets”.

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