NATO approves Turkey request for Syria border missiles

NATO on Tuesday agreed to deploy Patriot missiles along the border of member state Turkey as requested by Ankara to help it defend its territory against threats from Syria.

"NATO has agreed to augment Turkey's air defence capabilities in order to defend the population and territory of Turkey and to contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the alliance's border," a statement said.

Turkey formally asked its NATO partners to deploy the US-made anti-missile system after a series of cross-border shellings, including one that left five civilians dead on October 3.

"We say to anyone who would want to attack Turkey -- don't even think about it," said NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, announcing the decision taken by the 28-member military alliance.

Germany, the Netherlands and the United States have agreed to provide the Patriot missile batteries, which would come under the command of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the NATO statement said.

Stressing that the surface-to-air Patriot system was purely defensive, Rasmussen said technical discussions would now follow about how many of the missiles would be deployed and where.

The discussions at NATO came amid reports that Syria is moving chemical weapons from among its stockpile, as the regime of President Bashar al-Assad fights rebels seeking to oust him.

"NATO members expressed grave concerns about reports that the Syrian regime is considering the use of chemical weapons. Any such action would be completely unacceptable and a clear breach of international law," Rasmussen said.

The joint NATO statement on the Patriots' deployment stressed that it "will be defensive only. It will in no way support a no-fly zone or any offensive operation."

Rasmussen insisted deploying the missiles would lead to a de-escalation of the crisis, and added that NATO officials would regularly assess the situation and the implementation of the deployment.

NATO's decision reflected "our full determination and resolve to protect our nations and territories," Rasmussen told journalists.

Calling what is happening in Syria "absolutely outrageous," Rasmussen said it was "a responsibility for the international community to facilitate and ensure a peaceful" end to the conflict.

UNDERSTANDING THE SYRIA CONFLICT