A major disagreement erupted beteween Turkey and NATO, as the agency’s defense ministers expressed their determination to continue cooperationg with the European Union in the quest to stop human smuggling across the Augean. Operation Sea Guardian will see NATO ships and planes deployed to the central Mediterranean, ready to help increase the EU’s situational awareness and provide logistical support. “Thanks to our joint efforts, together with Greece and Turkey, the flow of migrants has decreased substantially,” said Jens Stoltenberg told reporters, the alliance’s Secretary-General, pledging to take the anti-trafficking mission to “the next level”.
Not everyone is happy with this decision; Turkish officials expressed their opposition, stating that the sharp drop in refugees trying to get to Greece means there is no longer a need for warships to patrol its coast beyond the end of December. On the other hand, Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos welcomed the continued presence of NATO forces in the Aegean, not only for its impact on the effective reduction of refugees and illegal immigrants crossing the Aegean, but also because it is a way for the Alliance to have a first-hand account of “Turkish provocation, violation of international rules and the attempt to create a climate of upheaval between two members.” From his part, Greece’s Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas has expressed the fear that Turkey might not honor an agreement with the EU to curb illegal migration, leading to a renewed influx of migrants into Greece, where reception centers are already overcrowded.