A Turkish official rejected the accuracy of an AFP news agency report which indicated that the Turkish government is not allowing NATO ships to enter its water borders despite the agreement for common operations against the human traffickers.
Turkish daily, Hurriyet reported today that Ankara described the AFP report as “fabricated” saying that it is not true that NATO vessels are unable to start their operations because the Turkish government doesn’t permit them to enter the Turkish waters.
“We don’t feel it necessary to respond to the comments, the source (an unnamed diplomatic source) of which we do not know and which are obviously fabricated and most probably aimed at creating provocation,” Turkish officials told Hurriyet Daily News on March 2. “Work is going on to have NATO activity conducted as planned,” the official said.
Hurriyet said that last week, a Turkish official spoke with the newspaper and said that the NATO operation in the Aegean Sea is comprised by a three-stage process. “Setting the modalities is only the first stage” Turkish officials told Hurriyet last week and added. “The second stage will take place next week [Feb. 29-March 6] and will concern outlining details on how to implement these principles, and the third stage will be implementation,” the same official said. According to the Turkish daily, the second stage involved the “drawing” of maps.
In the original AFP report, a unknown “diplomatic source” had said that Turkish authorities have asked Rear Admiral Jorg Klein, the German commander of the NATO operation, “to go to Ankara to determine the area where [NATO] might deploy.” The source added that right now “the Germans and the Turks,” are “drawing” the maps.
However, two days ago, Greek website NewPost reported that according to the Greek private broadcaster, MEGA, the NATO vessels were present at the Greek side of the Aegean Sea meaning that the three stage negotiations between Greece and NATO were completed much faster compared with the Turkish one.
According to NewPost, MEGA reported that a German vessel named Bohn, which is active at the Greek side of the Aegean Sea, asked from the Turkish authorities to leave from the Greek water borders and enter the Turkish one to examine the routes the traffickers use to transfer the people in need. Even though, Greece submitted the necessary diplomatic allowance Turkey didn’t, NewPost reported.
According to NewPost, on 29 February Bohn was located at the Greek side of the Aegean Sea between Lesvos and Chios, Barbaros (another NATO vessel) near Karpathos and Canadian Federico was between Chios and Ikaria. The Greek website reported that another two NATO vessels were expected to arrive at the Greek sides of the Aegean Sea (the Italian LIBECCIO and the French MONTCALM).
On 26 February, NATO had announced that it managed to persuade both Greece and Turkey to overcome their ongoing territorial dispute over their common water borders, and therefore the mission to tackle migrant smugglers in the Aegean Sea was good to go.
Then AFP news agency reported after lengthy talks, the 28-nation alliance said it had agreed the modalities as to where, when and how the naval force of around five ships, including from Greece and Turkey, will operate.
“Our commanders will decide the area where they will be operating, in coordination with Greece and Turkey. NATO vessels can deploy in the territorial waters of Greece and Turkey,” a statement said and added that “Greek and Turkish forces will not operate in each other’s territorial waters and airspace.”
The statement added that “NATO’s task is not to turn back the boats. We will provide critical information to enable the Greek and Turkish coastguards, as well as Frontex, to do their job even more effectively.”
Today, Russian website Sputnik reported that German newspaper Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten (DWN) wrote that Turkey still doesn’t allow the NATO ships to operate in the Turkish side.