Stretched Dutch say will end Turkey Patriot missile deployment in January

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands will end its contribution to NATO's deployment of Patriot anti-ballistic missile systems in Turkey at the end of January, the government said on Monday. The Netherlands, Germany and the United States each sent two Patriot missile batteries and soldiers to operate them in early 2013 in response to a request from NATO ally Turkey for help against attacks from neighboring Syria. Ankara has been one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's fiercest critics during Syria's civil war, which began in 2011. Shells fired from Syrian territory frequently land inside Turkey, drawing a response in kind from the Turkish military. A Dutch defense ministry spokeswoman said the Netherlands no longer had the resources to keep its batteries deployed in the field, even though the threat to Turkey from ballistic missiles persisted. "They've been deployed 24/7 for almost two years and you can't prolong it any longer," the spokeswoman said. "We've announced this now so that NATO can take a decision on how to continue." The Patriot batteries had initially been expected to remain in Turkey for up to a year but no time limit was ever set. (Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Gareth Jones)