Syria said today that plans by Turkey to site Patriot missiles along its border was “a new act of provocation,” while allies Iran and Russia warned the move would complicate the situation and could spark a regional conflagration.

Turkey turned to its NATO partners earlier this week to request the deployment of the surface-to-air Patriot missiles to protect its troubled border with Syria, which is engulfed in a war that has cost some 40,000 lives.

In its first reaction, the Syrian Foreign Ministry accused Ankara of causing “tension and destruction.”

The action is “a new act of provocation,” state television quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.

“Syria holds (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan responsible for the militarisation of the situation at the border between Syria and Turkey, and the increase of tension and destruction to the detriment of the Syrian and Turkish peoples,” the unidentified official said.

The Syrian Government has long accused Turkey of harbouring, financing and arming rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that any deployment of Patriot missiles by Turkey on its border may create a temptation to use the weapons and spark a “very serious armed conflict” involving NATO.

“I understand that no one has any intention to see NATO get sucked into the Syrian crisis,” Lavrov said. But “the more arms are being accumulated, the greater the risk that they will be used.”

And Iran’s Foreign Ministry accused Turkey of aggravating the situation.

“Not only does it not help resolve the situation in Syria but it will also aggravate and complicate the situation,” spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, quoted on state television.

“The insistence (of certain countries) to resolve the Syrian crisis through military means is the main cause of tensions and threats in the region,” he said.

Meanwhile, Iran’s influential Parliament speaker Ali Larijani was in Damascus at the start of a three-nation tour billed at trying to find a solution to the conflict roiling Syria.

Larijani accused regional powers he did not name of causing “problems” in Syria, in an allusion to the principal champions of arming the rebels fighting to overthrow Assad’s regime — Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

(This article was published on November 24, 2012)
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