NEWS

Athens says impact of NATO patrols in Aegean is minimal

VASSILIS NEDOS

TAGS: Politics, Diplomacy

Greece has written to its NATO partners to highlight the limited impact so far of joint patrols in the Aegean aimed at fighting migrant smugglers, as the alliance’s effort continues to be hampered by Turkey’s attempts to challenge Greek sovereignty.

Kathimerini has learned that the Greek Foreign Ministry submitted an aide-memoire to the NATO members’ permanent representatives a few days ago, which provided an assessment of the patrols since the alliance’s defense ministers decided on February 11 that a common mission should be launched in the Aegean.

The vessels did not actually begin their patrols until March 7, and then it was just in the area around Lesvos. It was not until March 21 that the island of Chios was also included in the patrols.

“Up to now, the general picture is not satisfactory,” according to the Greek document, which points out that between March 8 and 20, the NATO vessels could have patrolled for 312 hours but were actually only on duty for less than 184.

It pointed out that during a period when almost 6,000 refugees and migrants arrived on Lesvos, NATO patrols only identified three vessels carrying them to the island.

Athens also argues that by avoiding the Dodecanese, NATO created a “waterbed effect” that led to higher flows toward Samos.

NATO is steering clear of the Dodecanese islands and not taking up a Greek offer for the alliance’s vessels to dock there because of Turkey’s insistence that this should be a demilitarized zone.

NATO has also failed to react to complaints from Athens about Turkish military aircraft crossing into Greek air space without permission.

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