Dutch, German troops arrive in Turkey

Troops from the Netherlands and Germany have arrived in Turkey to make required preparations for the arrival of NATO Patriot missiles, which will be deployed along the country’s border with Syria.

Some 30 Dutch and 20 German soldiers arrived at Incirlik Air Base in eastern Turkey on Tuesday, with the main body of European soldiers set to arrive two weeks later.

The United States, Germany and the Netherlands have agreed to deploy two batteries of Patriot missiles each, under the command of NATO, along the Turkish-Syria border. Each Patriot missile battery has an average of 12 missile launchers. All the six batteries are scheduled to be operational by the end of January.

The Dutch Patriot batteries departed for Turkey on Monday and are expected to arrive by January 22 along with nearly 270 troops.

German Defense Ministry said its Patriots would be shipped Tuesday from the port of Luebeck-Travemuende, and are due to arrive at the Turkish port of Iskenderun on January 21.

The main German contingent of up to 350 soldiers will begin deploying in mid-January.

A team of US military forces have already been stationed in the southeastern city of Gaziantep and a further 400 personnel and equipment would be airlifted there in the coming days.

The NATO military alliance approved a request by Turkey for the deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missiles in the border region on December 4, 2012.

Turkish people have held several protest demonstrations against the military plan.

The Syrian government has also censured the plan, calling it another act of provocation by the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The crisis in Syria began in mid-March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of army and security personnel, have been killed so far.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in July 2012 that Turkey “has supplied all logistic support to the terrorists who have killed our people.”

HM/PKH/SS