Greek government braces for Syria hit

Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Friday chaired an emergency summit involving senior officials from several other ministries to discuss Greece’s possible support role in the event of a US hit on Syria as well as matters relating to national border protection and an anticipated influx of Syrian refugees.

During the meeting, officials reportedly assessed the capabilities and operational plans of each ministry and discussed cooperation. Particular emphasis was paid to two plans, code-named Cosmos and Ioni, the first concerning the safe evacuation of Greek citizens living in Syria if such a need arises, and the second for the bolstering of Greece’s land and sea borders to deal with a likely surge in refugees from Syria. According to sources, the country’s armed forces have already started drafting plans for the transfer of Greek citizens from Syria by air or sea, depending on the restrictions imposed by the upheaval.

Defense officials are also said to be considering the risk of “asymmetric threats” – or possible reprisals against Greece – although the risk is perceived as extremely low.

As for the Ioni plan, which was drafted a year ago to deal with the fallout of the Syrian crisis, it has been revised by officials with plans for more frequent air and sea patrols, probably in cooperation with the European Union’s border monitoring agency Frontex.

Defense Ministry officials discussed the likely need for Greece to accommodate a large number of Syrian refugees. Venues that could be used for the temporary accommodation of refugees, for no more than a few months, have been identified on the islands of Crete, Rhodes and Karpathos in the southern Aegean, sources said.

Meanwhile, on the eastern Aegean island of Chios, residents and aid groups have been contributing to efforts by local authorities to provide shelter and relief to more than 200 Syrian refugees who arrived on the island aboard smuggling ships from neighboring Turkey earlier this week.

Authorities warned Friday that their resources are already stretched thin and that they will be unable to handle any additional arrivals unless support is provided on the central government or European level.