NATO to boost surveillance on Turkey-Syria border
BRUSSELS – Anadolu Agency
DHA PhotoNATO is set to boost border surveillance to protect its member Turkey from possible threats coming from neighboring war-torn Syria.
“We agreed with Turkey on Feb. 11 to intensify, to increase surveillance of [the] border between Turkey and Syria, we are in the process of establishing [this] with Turkey in the best possible way,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a joint news conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on March 10.
On March 8, two civilians, including one child, were killed in southern Turkey when several rockets from Syria hit the Turkish town of Kilis.
Adding that Turkey was the NATO ally most affected by the crisis in Syria, Stoltenberg said NATO already had assurance measures in Turkey, including planes, naval presence and patriot batteries, which allowed the alliance to monitor the situation on the Turkish-Syrian border.
His comments came days after Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said during a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels on March 7 that his country was seeking increased NATO support on the border with Syria.
“We want to see a more visible NATO presence on our border, which will create a deterrent for those who may have the intention to test the capacity of NATO,” said Davutoğlu.
NATO had already agreed to send vessels to the Aegean Sea in an attempt to crack down on human smugglers and stem the flow of refugees seeking to enter Europe via Greece. This would allow NATO vessels to be present in both Greek and Turkish territorial waters.
“We decided to increase the number of ships; there are now five ships, there will be more ships in the coming days, and we also have helicopters, so we are increasing [the] presence of NATO vessels,” Stoltenberg said, without specifying how many more ships would be deployed in the Aegean.
“We have increased [the] area of operation; we have started to focus on the area around the Greek island of Lesbos and [are] planning to move further south in the coming days and weeks,” he added.
Stoltenberg said on the weekend NATO had expanded into Turkish and Greek territorial waters, a move which was delayed because of disagreements with Ankara.
Britain announced on March 7, ahead of the EU summit with Turkey, that it was sending an amphibious landing ship and several other vessels to join ships from Canada, Germany, Greece and Turkey.
NATO launched the deployment, the first civilian operation of its kind for the military alliance, after a request by Greece, Turkey and Germany to help tackle Europe’s biggest migration crisis since World War II.
More than one million people have crossed the Mediterranean since the start of 2015, including many refugees fleeing the war in Syria.