NATO to continue presence in Aegean despite Turkey urging end of mission

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Turkish Defense Minister Mehmet Fikri Işık, British Defense Minister Michael Fallon and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen speak during a NATO Defense ministers' meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on October 26, 2016.

NATO has said that it will continue to crack down on migrant flows in the Aegean Sea, despite a call by Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık for the NATO migrant mission in the Aegean to be completed by the end of the year because it had achieved its goal, 

A NATO official told AFP on Friday that “there is no end date for NATO’s activity in the Aegean Sea … [but] NATO will continue to keep this mission under regular review.”

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also praised the mission, saying it had “decreased substantially” the flow of migrants and was “making a difference.” He also said a new maritime security mission will bolster a current anti-trafficking mission to help increase the EU’s situational awareness and provide logistical support.

Turkish Defense Minister Işık, however, told reporters after a meeting in Brussels with defense ministers from NATO member states on Thursday that there is no need for NATO forces to remain in the Aegean.

This was a temporary mission, and the goal has been reached. … There is no reason to extend it,” he said.

Işık also said Turkey would remain committed to tackling the flow of migrants and asked that the NATO mission be brought to an end “by the end of this year.”

Asked whether the mission would continue in 2017, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said, “We’ll see then.”

Nearly a million people from war-torn countries fleeing war, poverty and persecution arrived in the Greek islands last year in Europe´s worst migrant crisis since World War II. The number of arrivals in Greece has dropped dramatically this year, after the EU and Turkey made a migrant deal that has been effect since March.

The NATO mission was launched in February to tackle the huge flow of refugees and migrants to Greece on board rickety boats from Turkey. Several warships were involved in the mission launched after Turkey, Greece and Germany requested it.

Greece’s migration minister had pointed out earlier that Turkey was not pulling its share of the migrant deal since reception centers are overcrowded.

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