U.S. confirms Turkey asked Patriot deployment on its southern border

A U.S. official confirmed that Turkey had asked the United States to deploy Patriot batteries on its southern border as protection against potential attacks by Russian-backed Syrian forces, Airforce Technology reported on Friday. 

“We are aware of a request for Patriot missiles in Turkey near the Syrian border, but no decision has been made,”the official said. “We continue to have discussions with the government of Turkey about the troubling situation in Idlib. We refer you to the Turkish government for further details.”

A total of 15 Turkish soldiers have died by Syrian shelling in Idlib, the last major rebel-held enclave in Syria, since the beginning of February, as Russian-backed Syrian troops escalated their offensive on the northwestern province. 

Citing a Turkish official, Bloomberg reported on Thursday that Turkey asked the United States to deploy two Patriot missile defence batteries. 

“There may be a Patriot battery support,” from the United States, Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told CNN-Turk television in an interview on Thursday.

But the Turkish Defence Ministry said a statement that Bloomberg’s report did not reflect the truth. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday that Turkey had previously told U.S. President Donald Trump its request to buy Patriots systems. 

Turkey has 12 observation posts built in Idlib according to a 2018 agreement made with Russia to prevent a potential attack of the Syrian government on the province, which is home to 3 million people, a large part of whom are civilians that fled from fighting elsewhere in the country.

The Syrian government launched an offensive on Idlib in April, saying that Turkey failed in removing jihadist fighters from a demilitarised zone established Turkey established with Russia. Some 1 million people from Idlib have fled to areas to near the Turkish border since the beginning of the year, creating another risk of massive refugee influx into Turkey which hosts 3.6 million Syrians.