NATO debates German-Turkish refugee aid request

10th February 2016, Comments 0 comments

NATO defence ministers discussed Wednesday a request by key members Germany and Turkey to help cope with a massive influx of refugees, mostly fleeing the Syrian conflict, alliance head Jens Stoltenberg said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Ankara on Monday that Turkey and Germany would ask NATO to help police the Turkish coast to prevent smugglers from packing migrants into boats for the perilous crossing to Greece.

Stoltenberg said the 28 allies "are now considering the request for NATO support for coping with the migrant and refugee crisis and we are of course doing that in very close dialogue with the allies that are most affected."

"There are consultations and discussions going on now but I can not tell you anything about the conclusions," he said as NATO defence ministers held a two-day meeting in Brussels.

"We have to look very carefully into whether and how NATO can make a contribution and a difference," he said, adding that there could be an announcement on Thursday.

Agreeing a NATO role could prove difficult as Turkey and Greece have a long history of disputes, including in the Aegean Sea where the migrants cross.

Turkey -- the only Muslim-majority nation in NATO and with one of its largest armies -- was the main transit country for the more than one million migrants who reached Europe last year.

Once in Greece, they mostly made their way north to Germany and other richer countries in the European Union, driving what has become Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II.

The problem shows no sign of slowing -- more than 70,000 made the dangerous crossing in January, with over 400 dying, according to the International Organization for Migration (OIM).

As fighting intensifies in Syria, there are growing fears hundreds of thousands more could follow as the EU struggles to control the influx, having agreed a joint action plan agreed with Turkey in November.


© 2016 AFP

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