November 23, 2012 - 21:49 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Syria on Friday, Nov 23 condemned Turkey's request for NATO to deploy Patriot defense missiles near their common border, calling it "provocative", after a spate of fighting there that has raised fears of the Syrian civil war embroiling the wider region, Reuters reported.
In the first Syrian response to Ankara's request earlier this week, a ministry source told Syrian state television that Damascus would hold Turkey's prime minister responsible for increasing tensions along the frontier.
The 20-month-old uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has grown increasingly bloody and heavy clashes often erupt right along Syria's northern border with Turkey. Ankara has repeatedly scrambled fighter jets and responded in kind to stray shells flying into its territory.
Turkey's missile request may have riled Damascus and its allies because it could be seen as a first step toward implementing a no-fly zone. Syrian rebels have been requesting one to help them hold territory against a government with overwhelming firepower from the air, but which most foreign governments are loath to impose for fear of getting sucked into the conflict.
The Patriot system is designed to intercept aircraft or missiles. Turkey asked for its deployment after weeks of talks with its NATO allies about how to shore up its 900-km (560 mile) border, where it fears security may deteriorate as the Syrian army steps up fighting against rebel advances.
"Syria stresses its condemnation of the Turkish government's latest provocative step," the ministry source told Syria TV.
The source said that Syria would respect Turkish sovereignty but also said that it "holds (Tayyip) Erdogan responsible for the militarization of the situation on the Syrian-Turkish border and increased tensions".
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday that the possible deployment of Patriot missiles was "purely defensive" and would "serve as a deterrent to possible enemies even thinking of attacks".
The U.S.-led Western alliance has had some talks on the Turkish request but no decision is expected before next week.