x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Turkey seeks to place Patriot missiles on Syrian border

Turkey is a member of Nato and has bolstered its own military presence along the 900km border.

ANKARA // Turkey is to make an imminent official request to Nato to station Patriot missiles along its border with Syria, a Turkish official said yesterday.

Turkey is a member of Nato and has already bolstered its own military presence along the 900-kilometre border and has been responding in kind to gunfire and mortar shells hitting its territory from fighting between Syrian rebels and Syrian government forces. The issue of Patriot missiles "is also coming up on the agenda within the framework of deliberations, preparations and contingency planning on the security of Turkey and Nato territories", foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal, told AFP.

Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is currently in Indonesia, said: "No request has been made so far," according to the private Turkish television network NTV.  A Nato spokesman in Brussels said the alliance had yet to receive a request.

He added: "The allies will consider any request that is brought to the North Atlantic Council."

In Syria yesterday, rebels made a new push into Damascus, clashing with troops in the rebellious suburbs of the capital and firing mortars at a presidential palace and a Palestinian refugee camp, activists said. The regime stronghold of Damascus has seen a surge in violence this week with some of the fiercest clashes in months. In recent days, opposition fighters also Rebels fired several mortar rounds at the Syrian president Bashar Al Assad's residence in the Muhajireen neighbourhood in central Damascus in the morning, but failed to hit their mark, said Bassam Al Dada, an adviser to the commander of the Free Syrian Army, Col Riad Al Asaad.

"This was a very special operation that was planned for a while," Mr Al Dada said. Mr Al Assad's current whereabouts is unknown, and the rebels' targeting of the palace was largely a symbolic strike on the Syrian leader's power. The Sana state news agency said a "terrorist group" planted explosives under the car of Judge Abad Nadhwah when it was parked in front of his house yesterday. The bomb was detonated remotely, killing the judge instantly.

Syria's main opposition bloc began electing new leaders under intense international pressure from critics who say the exile-dominated group does not represent those risking their lives on the front lines to oust the regime. The Syrian National Council's general assembly of some 420 members was choosing two leadership bodies and a president yesterday during a conference in the Qatari capital Doha.

Meanwhile, in the Egyptian capital, the Arab League chief Nabil ElAraby, urged the opposition to put aside their differences. "It is important to unify the opposition's visions, especially because everyone knows that the regime in Syria will not remain for long and one day there will be a new situation in Syria," he told reporters in Cairo. The British prime minister David Cameron on Wednesday made a surprise visit to the sprawling Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan yesterday, which is home to thousands of Syrians.

He vowed to do more to help end the crisis in Syria.

At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI said during a public audience that he has dropped plans to send a mission to Syria, saying "unfortunately, due to a variety of circumstances and developments, it was not possible to carry out this initiative as planned". The Pope is instead sending a delegation to neighbouring Lebanon to coordinate relief efforts for Syrian refugees and those needing help inside the country.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Reuters