Dutch soldiers stand next to a Patriot missile system deployed in the Turkish city of Adana. (File photo)
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military alliance says it has made the first set of Patriot missiles operational on the Turkey-Syria border.
The Netherlands was the first of three countries to activate its Patriot missile batteries in the southern Turkish city of Adana on Saturday.
NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Europe Admiral James Stavridis has backed the deployment of Patriot missiles, saying it shows the alliance’s willingness to defend allies facing threats.
The NATO missile systems are slated to remain in Turkey for a six-month period, which the military alliance may extend.
The United States, Germany and the Netherlands each agreed to deploy two Patriot missile batteries under the command of NATO along the Turkish-Syria border after the military alliance approved a request by Turkey for the deployment of the surface-to-air missiles in the border region on December 4, 2012.
The three countries will each send nearly 350 troops to Turkey. A number of American, German and Dutch soldiers are already stationed in the country.
The six batteries of the US-made missiles, effective against aircraft and short-range missiles, will be deployed in the southern city of Adana and the southeastern cities of Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep.
Turkish people have held several protests against the military plan.
The Syrian government has also censured the plan, calling it another act of provocation by the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.