NATO’s navy patrols in the Aegean are expected to continue following comments made by US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter concerning the dispatch of USNS Grapple and its incorporation into the SNMG2 fleet – the Standing NATO Maritime Group Two deployed to intercept migrant flows from Turkey.
The USNS Grapple, an American safeguard-class salvage ship, has been docked at the naval base of Souda on Crete since June 14 and is expected to join patrols on Friday.
Reports said that Carter’s announcement was expected and came at the end of two months of talks during which Washington expressed its intention to reinforce NATO’s presence in the Aegean.
The announcement also follows statements made in May, during an Alliance meeting at its headquarters in Brussels, by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who revealed Washington’s intentions to boost the NATO effort.
Defense Minister Panos Kammenos has hailed the navy patrols in the Aegean as a “crowning success” as they have helped stem the flow of migrants.
He also said that Greece has been upgraded in the wider Mediterranean as “a force of stability” along with close ally Cyprus, which, he said, is involved in bilateral and trilateral agreements with Israel, Egypt and Jordan.