Turkey's defence minister says U.S. could deploy Patriots to Syrian border

Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said during a televised interview on Thursday the United States could deploy U.S.-made Patriot batteries on its southern border to provide protection.

The United States could support Turkey militarily amid escalated tensions in Syria's last rebel-held province of Idlib by deploying Patriot batteries on its border, Akar said. "The United States may have Patriot support," he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week said Turkey plans striking Russian-backed Syrian forces by air in Idlib.

Citing a senior Turkish official, Bloomberg reported on Thursday that Turkey had asked the United States to deploy two U.S.-made Patriot batteries on Syria border.

"Ankara could use F-16 warplanes to strike units loyal to Assad in Idlib if the Patriots were deployed in Hatay on Turkey’s border to provide protection," Bloomberg quoted the Turkish official, who is familiar with Turkey’s policy in Syria, as saying.

Turkey conveyed the request to U.S. special envoy for Syria engagement James Jeffrey during his visit last week, the official said. But Ankara has not received a response from Washington on the matter, he said.

But Turkey's Defence Ministry rejected news on the request despite similar statements from the defence minister. "The news does not reflect the truth," the ministry said.

Thirteen Turkish soldiers were killed this month by Syrian shelling in Idlib and almost one million people have flocked to areas near the Turkish border, fleeing the Syrian government advance on the country’s last major rebel-held enclave.

Erdoğan said on Feb. 13 his military would strike Russian-backed Syrian forces by ground and air anywhere in Syria if another Turkish soldier was hurt in the Syrian government assault on Idlib province.

Turkey and the United States have disputed for years over Ankara's requests to buy Patriot missiles. The Trump administration has refused to agree to a deal unless Turkey first cancels acquisition of Russian S-400 air missile systems.