Turkey seeks to end NATO patrols in Aegean Sea

DAILY SABAH WITH AFP
ISTANBUL
Published

Turkey is seeking to end the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) operations in the Aegean Sea to spot refugees using the sea as an entrance to the European Union.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Tuesday night that their aimed goals have "actually been complied with" and thus the operation should come to an end.

The question of whether NATO patrols in the Aegean Sea will continue "cannot be answered positively at the moment," German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Wednesday.

The mission started in February and was not appointed with a clear ending date. It aimed to uncover the network of routes used for human trafficking and to register movements of refugee boats in the Aegean Sea.

All collected data was forwarded to Turkish and EU authorities, as well as to the European border agency Frontex. NATO itself does not take action against human trafficking in the sea.

The operation significantly reduced the influx of migrants going into the EU via the Greek seaside. Therefore, the Turkish government is of the opinion that there is no need for further investigations and patrols.

From the beginning the operation was determined to be "difficult."

Especially since Turkey saw the NATO patrols as a way of effective controls of its coasts. Theoretically, it needs approval of all NATO members to end the operation. However, Turkey can reject the continuation of the patrols along their coasts, which would paralyze the process.

Steinmeier said there would be no final decision as of yet. In February the foreign ministries of NATO will meet again to discuss the topic.

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