Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos called for the strengthening of NATO’s presence in the Aegean Sea on Thursday in order to halt what he called the migration influx from Turkey.
Speaking at the two-day meeting of NATO Defense Ministers in Brussels, Panagiotopoulos urged Greece’s allies to contribute, each according to its capabilities, to the further enhancement of their activity in the Aegean.
NATO decided to join international efforts in dealing with the migrant crisis in February 2016, at the request of Germany, Greece and Turkey. The Alliance says it is already contributing to such international efforts in the Aegean through intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Greece is facing a mounting migrant problem, as in the month of January 2020 alone, 3,545 people landed on its shores; that number remains on a par with the total of 59,000 people who migrated to Greek shores in 2019.
The situation has left Greece’s asylum processing system horrendously overburdened, with a current backlog of 90,000 cases — which has resulted in some refugees spending over one year in the camps.
Panagiotopoulos also met with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, concurrent with the two-day NATO session.
The officials exchanged views on how the two countries’ military delegations could help reduce tensions in bilateral relations at talks on the confidence-building measures which are scheduled to start in Athens on Monday.
The Minister said he made it clear that “in order for the military dialogue to succeed, provocative actions that undermine any effort to build confidence must be avoided.”