PANETTA TO THE FRONT : U.S. Defence Secretary Arrives in Turkey

ADANA — U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Turkey, the Turkish news agency DHA said on Friday.

According to the agency, Panetta’s visit to Turkey is not planned and the Defence Secretary is currently at the Incirlik U.S. military base. According to the information, during his visit to Turkey, Panetta will discuss the issue of placing two batteries of the Patriot anti-aircraft missile complex. Earlier, Turkish mass media reported that the U.S. government will send two batteries of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles to Turkey to ensure the security of its NATO ally on the border with Syria. The batteries of anti-aircraft missile complex will be placed under NATO command. Some 400 American soldiers were sent to Turkey for site maintenance. The decree relating to this was signed by U.S. Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, Reuters agency reported.

Turkey asked NATO to place the Patriot anti-aircraft missile complex in the area of the 900 kilometre long Turkish-Syrian border. According to the Turkish government, the risk for security is especially high in this area because of the civil conflict in Syria which grew into large scale clashes of armed opposition groups with the government forces of President Bashar Assad. In total, six anti-aircraft missile batteries from the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands (two batteries from each country) will be placed on the Turkish border under NATO command. It is expected, that all six batteries will bear an alert starting the end of January 2013.