Spain's Patriots to stay in Turkey until NATO says otherwise
by Daily Sabah with AA
ISTANBULAug 25, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah with AA
Aug 25, 2015 12:00 am
The Patriot air defense missile system provided by Spain will remain in Turkey unless NATO says otherwise, Spanish Defense Minister Pedro Morenes said Sunday. Morenes's statement comes after the U.S. and Germany announced that they would end their involvement in NATO's Patriot anti-missile systems in southern Turkey by the beginning of 2016.
"Spain will continue its [Patriot] mission in Turkey for as long as NATO requests," Morenes said, according to Spanish daily La Razon in its Sunday edition.
Spain decided in September to send a Patriot air defense missile system to Turkey as part of its NATO obligations to replace units from the Netherlands that were being withdrawn. Naval ships carrying the missiles arrived at the port of İskenderun in Turkey's southern province of Hatay on Jan. 9. Germany had deployed Patriot batteries in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş since January 2013 as part of a NATO mission to counter possible threats from Syria. On Aug. 15, it pulled out two Patriot air defense missile batteries and 250 soldiers deployed in southeastern Turkey.
A German Ministry of Defense spokesman said Germany's decision was based on the assessment that the threat of missile attacks from Syria had significantly diminished. German magazine Der Spiegel broke the news that Germany had decided to pull its Patriot team before the mission's mandate ends on Jan. 31, 2016. "Together with our NATO partners we have defended the Turkish people against possible missile attacks from Syria," Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. "Our Patriot missiles have successfully conducted their mission." Along with Germany, the U.S. also decided to withdraw the Patriot batteries on the same day. Regarding the decision, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis emphasized that the decision to not renew the stationing of the U.S.'s anti-missile batteries was based on the need to update the systems as well as a diminished threat from Syria. "The need to upgrade is what the immediate impetus [is] for it, but it is also reflective of a change, in our view, of our threat calculus there," Davis told reporters, stressing that the U.S. was not considering a redeployment of the system after the weapons were upgraded. "It's widely documented that they [Syria] fired significant numbers of Scud [missiles] early on in their civil war at targets inside their country, and that has now largely stopped."
According to a joint statement issued by Turkey and the U.S. on Aug. 16, the United States is prepared to return Patriot assets and personnel to Turkey within one week if needed. The two U.S. Patriot air defense missile batteries, which have been in Turkey as part of a broader NATO mission since 2013, "will be redeployed to the United States for critical modernization upgrades that will ensure the U.S. missile defense force to remain capable of countering evolving global threats and protecting Allies and partners – including Turkey," the joint statement read. The U.S. will continue to work closely with Turkey especially in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and supporting "Turkey's air defense capabilities, including against ballistic missile risks and threats," according to the statement.