Germany extends Patriot missile deployment in Turkey

BERLIN - The German parliament has approved Thursday to extend deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey, as part of a NATO mission to counter possible threats from Syria.

The 631-seat Bundestag lower house voted 503 to 70 in favor of the one-year extension. Seven lawmakers abstained.

The German government’s request to extend the Patriot deployment in Turkey until Jan. 31, 2016, was backed by the opposition Green Party, while the socialist Left Party opposed.

Social Democrat lawmaker Niels Annen has defended the conservative-left coalition government’s decision to extend the Patriot deployment in Turkey in an address to the parliament ahead of the vote. 

"It is a matter of solidarity among the NATO allies. It is also a matter of the security of Turkey," he stressed.  

Conservative lawmaker Andreas Nick from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc CDU/CSU has praised Turkey’s open door policy towards Syrian refugees.

"The Patriot mission would continue to protect our NATO partner Turkey. It would not only protect Turkish people and the Turkish territory, but also the Syrian refugees that have taken shelter in Turkey," he said.

Both lawmakers from the coalition government said they expected that Ankara take stronger measures to prevent people from European countries to travel to fight in Syria.

Green Party lawmaker Omid Nouripour emphasized that the security threat in the region had not changed significantly since the German parliament decided last year to extend the Patriot deployment.

"Syria still has ballistic missiles. There are at least five military sites in the country where chemical weapons can be produced. These sites are not demolished yet," Nouripour said. He underlined that the Greens would support the extension of Patriot missile deployment in Turkey.

The opposition socialist Left Party criticized Turkey’s policy towards Syria and argued that the Patriot deployment had no role in providing security. It called for an immediate end to the mission.

Following the shooting down of a Turkish jet by Syrian forces in June 2012 and the killing of five Turkish civilians by Syrian shelling in October the same year, Turkey had requested NATO’s assistance.

NATO allies U.S., Germany and the Netherlands each sent two Patriot batteries to bolster Turkey’s air defenses against possible threats from Syria.

German Patriot batteries have been stationed in the southern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras since Jan. 2013 and have been operating under the command and control of NATO.

The mission involves up to 400 troops from the German military.

Currently, about 250 German soldiers are serving in Kahramanmaras in the €20 million ($22.6 million) mission, funded by Germany.

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