Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called on Washington to redeploy its Patriot anti-aircraft systems on Turkish soil, insisting that the country needs some “support” from its NATO allies amid the crisis in Syria’s Idlib.
Cavusoglu thanked NATO for its quick reaction to the strike on Turkish troops in the Syrian province that left 33 soldiers dead, but urged the bloc to show more support – which he suggested might come from individual allies.
“The US Patriots were stationed in Gaziantep before. They can send them again. Especially since a NATO member, Turkey, needs support from its allies,” Cavusoglu said on Saturday after meeting with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo in Qatar.
Patriot anti-aircraft systems belonging to the US and the Netherlands had indeed been stationed in the country, but they were removed back in 2015. This prompted Ankara to go on a quest to buy own anti-air defenses from abroad, ultimately resulting in the S-400 deal with Russia.
Turkey’s desire to get its hands on the Patriot missiles has been widely reported by Turkish and American media, but all the available official statements have so far been sending mixed signals.
Earlier in the week, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed doubts that Ankara would be able to acquire any Patriots from the US, stating that “they have no such thing in their hands.” Turkey will have to rely on Russian-made S-400 systems which are expected to become operational in April, he added. It was not immediately clear whether Erdogan was speaking about purchasing Patriots or getting them deployed under NATO cooperation.
Reinvigorated rumors about Patriot deployment in Turkey come amid soaring hostilities in Syria’s province of Idlib, where Turkish and Syrian soldiers were fighting this week, resulting in dozens of Turkish soldiers getting killed in strikes said to be targeting jihadists. While Ankara claims it seeks to protect “Syrian people” by backing the attack on the Syrian Army, Damascus insists that Turkey rushed to support assorted “rebel” and terrorist groups that have been on the verge of defeat in Idlib.