NATO is to participate in Greece-Turkey maritime surveillance missions in the Aegean Sea to combat illegal people smugglers and stem the migrant inflow.
The proposed mission to be discussed at a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutolgu said they would ask for the help of the Alliance to fight migrant smugglers operating along Turkey’s coasts.
Under the proposal, which would need to be approved by Alliance members, NATO maritime assets would provide information to national coastguards and the EU border agency Frontex to battle people smugglers who use rickety boats to transport migrants and refugees to Europe through the Greek islands close to Turkish coasts.
The mission would use assets from the Alliance’s standing naval group, a permanent reaction force deployed in the Mediterranean. The naval group’s current flagship is the German combat support ship “Bonn.”
NATO ships would not push back migrant boats. However, they would aid rescue missions if necessary.
According to a real.gr report, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos has met with his German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen and promoted Greece’s positions on the matter. Britain and France’s defense ministers agreed with Kammenos’ positions.
The report says that Greece proposed a naval force of up to 57 vessels in the Aegean and specifically between the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Agathonisi, Pharmakonisi and the Turkish coast. The force would have as a basis the NATO SNMG2 force already operating in the Aegean under German command.
Furthermore, Turkish ships would supervise the Turkish side of the border, Greek ships would supervise the Greek side and third country vessels on both sides. The responsibility of search and rescue missions of Greece and Turkey would be limited to their perspective sea borders.
Also, boats carrying migrants illegally would be sent back to Turkey. Flight plans of air missions relating to maritime operations would be reported to NATO, and, finally, the Alliance operation will be in collaboration with Frontex activities.