US Turkey Syria

Sunday, December 2, 2012 - 9:46pm

A senior administration official traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Europe ruled out any discussion at the upcoming NATO conference of the potential use of U.S. Patriot missiles in Turkey to impose a no-fly zone over Syria.

"A no-fly zone is not on the agenda for any NATO talks this week," the official told reporters aboard Clinton's plane.

"Patriot missiles, if they're deployed, would be deployed to protect Turkish airspace," the official said. "Turkey is a NATO ally and if a plane or missile crossed into Turkish airspace, these assets would be there to defend territory and airspace."

"We have said we're always prepared to look at ways in which we can help the people of Syria," the official added. "NATO has not decided to implement the no-fly zone but that's a separate discussion."

The official said a site survey for the Patriot batteries -- in which the United States is participating along with the Germans and Dutch, who have Patriot capabilities that could be considered -- is ongoing.

Turkey, the official said, has made a formal request to NATO to help bolster its defenses against any potential threats from Syrian missiles, NATO is actively considering that request and "we would like to be responsive in a positive way" since Turkey is a NATO ally.

"What I wouldn't expect," the official noted, however, "is a very concrete outcome on details like numbers and sites" since national decisions from the countries involved have yet to be made. That is not likely to happen by Tuesday when NATO meets, the official said.

Even when NATO approves and the countries involved signal their willingness, "it would be at least a matter of weeks" before the Patriots would be in place, the official said. Site surveys would have to be agreed, and the batteries would have to be sent to Turkey.

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