‘Patriots in Turkey ready by February’

NATO says its Patriot surface-to-air (SAM) missiles being deployed along Turkey’s border with Syria should be operational by early February.

“We would expect the Patriots to be operational by early February, if not earlier,” a spokesperson for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said on Monday.

He said the transport of troops and material got underway in early January and would continue over the next few weeks.

In November 2012, NATO announced a plan to deploy six Patriot missile batteries to “protect Turkey” from potential missile strikes from Syria.

The United States and Germany are providing two batteries and about 400 troops each to operate the missiles. The Netherlands will also dispatch 360 troops and the other two batteries.

Germany will begin deploying its main contingent of up to 350 soldiers in mid-January.

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

Each Patriot battery has an average of 12 missile launchers.

Syria has censured the Turkish plan to deploy the Patriots along its border, calling it another act of provocation by the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Many people, including large numbers of Syrian army and security personnel, have been killed in the turmoil that began in Syria nearly two years ago. The Syrian government says the chaos in the country is being orchestrated from outside.

PG/HSN