Greece 'can't discuss' Aegean refugee patrols with Turkey
ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
A Greek coast guard ship is seen behind a rubber boat with refugees and migrants near the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey on October 13, 2015. AFP PhotoGreece on Oct. 13 dismissed a suggestion it should set up joint patrols in the Aegean Sea with regional rival Turkey, as Europe struggles to control its worst migrant crisis since World War II.
"We cannot discuss newfangled ideas that have recently come to light, such as joint Greek-Turkish patrols of maritime borders," the Greek foreign ministry said in a statement.
Albeit NATO allies, Greece and Turkey have a fraught history going back centuries and remain at loggerheads over territorial and airspace rights in the Aegean.
On Oct. 12, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said there was a pressing need for Greece and Turkey to cooperate to check trafficker networks that migrants are resorting to in their desperate bid to reach Europe.
"We have at this time, especially in the Aegean between Greece and Turkey, a situation in which the borders are open in the sense that traffickers can act as they like there, and which leads many people to put their lives at immediate risk," Seibert said.
"This is something that must change," he added.
Greek daily Kathimerini on Oct. 13 said Athens fears that Ankara could exploit the refugee issue to strengthen its presence in the Aegean, where it claims the waters and airspace surrounding many Greek islands near its coasts.
The foreign ministry on Oct. 13 said the Greek government was keen to work with Turkey on stamping out people-smuggling networks.
But this would entail Ankara agreeing to share information, it noted.
Greece says it also wants Turkey to apply a bilateral agreement on migrant readmission which is currently all but inactive.
Over 710,000 refugees and migrants -- mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq -- entered the European Union in the first nine months of this year according to EU border agency Frontex.
This includes over 400,000 people that have landed on Greek islands from Turkey, while dozens more have died trying to make the crossing.
The crisis has exposed deep divisions within the 28-nation bloc over how to distribute the new arrivals and how to stem the flow.
Greece and Turkey nearly went to war over a cluster of uninhabited Aegean Sea islets in 1996.