Lavrov: Patriot missile deployment in Turkey will lead to further regional destabilization
Lavrov iterated Russia's concerns about plans to deploy Patriot missile systems on Turkish territory in a telephone conversation with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
"Anders Fogh Rasmussen informed [Lavrov] about the situation related to Turkey's request that NATO deploy Patriot air defense missiles on its territory. Lavrov reiterated Russia's concerns about the plans to step up the military potential in the region and the proposal on establishing a direct communication line between Ankara and Damascus to avoid incidents," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement it published on its website following the conversation.
Earlier, Lavrov used a theatrical metaphor to drive home Russia's concern over the increased militarization of the region.
"Our concerns are rooted in the 'Chekhov’s gun syndrome’ that says that if a gun appears on stage in the first act it will definitely fire by the third," he said.
The emergence of weapons at a time when attempts are being made to resolve a conflict creates risks – not necessarily due to the scenario, but because any stockpile of weapons naturally creates threats, he explained.
"Any provocation may trigger a very serious armed conflict. We want to avoid this," he said.
The minister stressed that Moscow understands Turkey's concerns about the situation on its border with Syria, where clashes between Syrian government forces and the opposition are everyday occurrences, and refugees continue to stream into Turkey.
"All this incites tensions even in the absence of air defense missile systems," Lavrov said.
Earlier, the Foreign Ministry expressed strong reservations over Turkey's request for Patriot missiles on its territory.
"Militarization of the Syrian-Turkish border is an alarming signal,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich said during a news conference in Moscow on Thursday.
The diplomat advised Turkey to instead promote dialogue between Damascus and the Syrian opposition.
“We have a different recommendation for our Turkish colleagues: They should use their influence on the Syrian opposition to promote the soonest beginning of the inter-Syrian dialogue," he said.
For the last 20 months, Syria has experienced a protracted conflict between a rebel opposition and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. Some of this violence has spilled over into Turkish territory.
In October, Turkey fired artillery into Syria after stray shells from the conflict hit the Turkish border town of Akcakale, killing five civilians.
Moscow, which has actively engaged both the Syrian government and opposition in an effort to promote peace talks, is increasingly concerned that violence along the Turkey-Syria border may escalate and consume the region.
The ministry spokesman strongly advised Turkey against “building muscle or putting the situation on such a dangerous track."
NATO, the Western military alliance of which Turkey is a member, called Russia’s objections to the proposed Patriot missile installations “unjustified.”
Speaking in Zurich on Thursday,NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen played down Russian concerns, saying that Patriot missile installations in Turkey would be “purely defensive.”
NATO officials will visit Turkey next week to conduct a “site survey for the possible deployment of the US-built Patriots,” Rasmussen said.
Germany and the Netherlands both agreed to send Patriot missile batteries to Turkey if the request received the support of their respective legislators.
NATO previously provided Ankara with Patriot missile systems in 1991 and 2003 during both Iraq wars. The systems were removed after the conflicts ended.
Moscow and Washington have recently seen a rise in tensions over NATO efforts to install a US missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Russia has warned that a unilateral push on the matter could lead to “another arms race.”
The Patriot surface-to-air missile, which can be used to defend against medium- and short-range ballistic missiles, has a maximum range of about 160 kilometers (100 miles).