Istanbul, (IANS) The US on Friday started to withdraw its Patriot missile batteries from Turkey, despite Russia’s weekend incursions into Ankara’s airspace amid a deepening crisis in Syria.
The batteries, based in Turkey’s southeastern province of Gaziantep, have been taken to the Turkish harbour of Iskenderun for shipping back to the United States, the Dogan news agency said.
The withdrawal came despite Ankara’s appeal for its NATO allies to keep their Patriot missiles in the country, as Russia started air raids on Islamic State targets in Syria on September 30 and Russian fighters twice breached Turkish airspace on October 3 and 4.
The US Patriots were stationed in Gaziantep in 2013 with 300 US troops as a counter-defence against possible missile attacks from Syria. Germany and the Netherlands also deployed the missiles in Turkey, reports Xinhua news agency.
The US and Germany announced in August that they would withdraw their batteries, saying Syria no longer posed a serious threat to Turkey, a NATO ally.
The US embassy in Ankara said in a statement earlier that the Patriots “will be re-deployed to the US for critical modernization upgrades”.
The Netherlands pulled out its two batteries from the southern Turkish city of Adana early this year, but Spain filled the gap by providing two batteries.
Germany is set to withdraw its missiles next week.