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Turkish Foreign Minister Rejects Iranian Criticism Of Patriot Deployment

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has rejected charges by senior Iranian officials over the deployment of Patriot antimissile systems in his country.

On December 18, Davutoglu called on Iran not to criticize the deployment of the Patriot defense system along Turkey's border with Syria.

He indicated that Tehran should instead rein in the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which is its close ally and is committing atrocities against the Syrian population.

"Turkey has the right to protect its soil taking measures of national capacity and within the capacity of the alliance of which [Turkey] is a member," Davutoglu said. "Our expectation from Iran is not to criticize the incoming defense system, but to send a clear message to the Syrian regime and to use its power to stop injustice in Syria."

Also on December 18, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that the deployment of NATO Patriot missiles along the border between Turkey and Syria is a threat to regional security.

Last week, the chief of Iranian armed forces, General Hassan Firouzabadi said it could lead to a "world war," which would threaten Europe too.

Russia Sends Warships

Meanwhile, Russia's Defense Ministry is sending a new group of warships to Syria amid reports authorities are drawing contingency plans for a possible evacuation of Russian nationals from the country.

The Defense Ministry said on December 18 that ships from the Baltic Fleet would replace vessels from the Black Sea Fleet that are currently in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Russia's Interfax news agency cited a "source" in the Baltic Fleet as saying the vessels were bound for Syria "to assist in a possible evacuation of Russian citizens."

The report could not be confirmed, but Airborne Forces commander General Vladimir Shamanov said troops have experience of evacuating Russians from "hot spots" and are ready to perform this task if it received presidential orders to do so.

On the ground in Syria, rebels on seized the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the capital on December 17. Situated just three kilometers from the heart of the city, the area is considered a springboard for a possible rebel attack on Damascus.

The 21-month-old uprising in Syria, which began as peaceful street protests, has turned into a violent civil war.

Some 40,000 Syrians are believed to have been killed so far in conflict.

With reporting by Reuters, ITAS, and IFEX