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Netherlands to Send 2 Patriot Batteries to Turkey

RIA Novosti

06:13 08/12/2012

MOSCOW, December 8 (RIA Novosti) – The Dutch government has approved the delivery of two Patriot missile batteries to Turkey to boost its air defenses along the border with Syria, Dutch news agency ANP reported.

'The Dutch deployment of Patriot systems aims to protect the population and territory of NATO ally Turkey and contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the southeastern borders of the alliance,' ANP quoted a government statement on Friday.

The Dutch Cabinet said it would commit a maximum of 360 troops to operate the Patriot systems under a yearlong NATO mandate.

The Dutch decision comes a day after the German government agreed to send two Patriot batteries and up to 400 troops to Turkey.

NATO approved the deployment of Patriot air defense systems in Turkey on Tuesday as a way to prevent potential Syrian cross-border missile or mortar attacks.

The missile systems are expected to be placed within a triangular area including the provinces of Gaziantep, Malatya and Diyarbakır in southern and eastern Turkey. The deployment could take a few weeks, according to NATO officials.

Turkey has been forced to fire several times in recent months across its border with Syria in retaliation for shelling from the Syrian territory, which killed five Turkish civilians in October. Ankara has also provided shelter to refugees fleeing the violence in Syria, and has been one of President Bashar al-Assad's harshest critics during the almost 17-month revolt against his rule.

Tensions between Turkey and Syria flared dangerously this summer, after Damascus shot down a Turkish fighter that had violated its airspace. Turkey threatened retaliation if there was any repeat of the incident, although it admitted its plane had mistakenly strayed slightly into Syrian airspace.

Russia has repeatedly voiced concern about plans to deploy Patriot missiles on Turkey's border with Syria, although Moscow avoided directly criticizing Turkey.

Russia believes the deployment would mean the first step toward the direct involvement of NATO forces in the Syrian conflict, further undermining the already unstable situation in the region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday reassured Turkey that Syria is too busy dealing with its internal conflict to plan any attack on its neighbors.

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