Turkey, Greece seek NATO mission in Aegean: German official

Turkey, Greece seek NATO mission in Aegean: German official

BRUSSELS – Reuters
Turkey, Greece seek NATO mission in Aegean: German official

In this photo taken on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, refugees and migrants are covered with sleeping bangs during a rainfall at the Greek island of Oinousses, as at the background is docked a large privately-owned tug converted into a rescue boat to transport them to Chios island. AP Photo

Turkey and Greece have agreed to ask for a NATO mission to monitor refugee flows in the Aegean Sea and combat people smugglers, a senior German government official said late on Feb. 10. 

“Turkey and Greece are both asking NATO to develop an overview of the situation with the national coastguards and Frontex,” the German official said, referring to Europe’s border protection agency. 

Struggling to stop refugees streaming into Greece despite a deal between Ankara and the European Union to combat the flood, Germany and Turkey surprised partners this week by saying they would raise the issue with NATO. 

Turkey has also said it is prepared to take back refugees who are rescued at sea or picked up by NATO, the official said. 

Information gathered by NATO should also be passed on to Turkish authorities to go after people smugglers, the official added. 

“It is not NATO’s remit to push back or stop refugee boats,” the official said. 

NATO allies already have ships in the eastern Mediterranean, part of efforts to shore up Turkey’s air defenses against missiles from Syria and Russian airspace violations.   

The official’s statements came as the NATO defense ministers met in Brussels for a two-day meeting to discuss a request by key members Germany and Turkey to help cope with a massive influx of refugees, mostly fleeing the Syrian conflict.

The alliance head Jens Stoltenberg said the 28 allies “are now considering the request for NATO support for coping with the migrant and refugee crisis and we are of course doing that in very close dialogue with the allies that are most affected,” AFP reported. 

“There are consultations and discussions going on now but I cannot tell you anything about the conclusions,” he said on Feb. 10, the first day of the meeting.

“We have to look very carefully into whether and how NATO can make a contribution and a difference,” he said, adding that there could be an announcement on Feb. 11.