NATO says its member Turkey has formally asked for Patriot missiles to be deployed on Turkish territory to deflect any stray attacks from war-torn Syria. Only the US, Germany and the Netherlands have appropriate systems.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said ambassadors of the North Atlantic military alliance would discuss Turkey's request "without delay" in Brussels. NATO officials said those consultations were due late Wednesday.
Turkey's request followed talks among NATO on how to enhance security along the 900-kilometer (560-mile) Syria-Turkey border and avert more stray gunfire and mortar rounds reaching Turkish territory from fighting between Syrian regime forces and rebels.
Merkel to seek parliament debate
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she would seek a Bundestag parliament to decide on any deployment, should Germany end up providing two Patriot batteries with a total of 170 troops to operate them.
In the Netherlands, the Dutch government said it too was examining the "desirability and possibility of a contribution."
"Such a deployment would augment Turkey's air defense capabilities to defend the population and territory of Turkey. It would contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along NATO's south-eastern border. And it would be a concrete demonstration of Alliance solidarity and resolve," Rasmussen said in a statement.
Defensive only, says Turkey
The Turkish government stressed that the deployment sought would be defensive only, and that it would in no way support a no-fly zone or any offensive operation.
Once-flourishing ties between Turkey and its neighbor Syria have slumped. In June a Turkish fighter jet was downed and in October Syrian shelling struck a border township. Five Turkish civilians, three of them children, were killed.
Reports from inside Syria indicated that fighting continued on Wednesday at a large military complex overlooking Aleppo, Syria's embattled northern commercial hub. Rebel fighters have besieged the base for several weeks.
ipj/dr (dpa, Reuters, AP)