Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said that “it is a given that some neighboring countries will close their borders with Greece,” referring to the migrant flow in Europe.
The closing of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) border to the north of Greece has been an issue brought up by several European Union heads of state. FYROM is the passageway for refugees and migrants to northern Europe. The shutting of the FYROM border would mean that tens of thousands of migrants might end up stranded in Greece.
Speaking on Star television late on Monday night, the defense minister stressed that the NATO participation in tackling people smugglers in the Aegean Sea will limit the migrant inflow from the Turkish shores to the nearby Greek islands. Therefore the closing of the borders of Greece’s northern neighbors will not be as burdensome.
Kammenos said that the NATO patrols and actions will be limited between the Greek and Turkish territorial waters. He added that it was his initiative to outline the conditions under which the NATO ships will patrol the zone between Greek and Turkish territory.
According to the minister, NATO will ensure that Turkish naval forces will not allow people smugglers to reach the Greek islands. He clarified that there won’t be joint patrols of Greek and Turkish ships, but each country will be guarding its waters.
The defense minister also said that NATO ships will be sending back all boats coming from Turkey carrying migrants and not refugees. He also reiterated that NATO operations will be taking place east of Greece and up to the Turkish shores.