Greece will abstain from military action against ISIS

A US-manufactured Hellenic Air Force F-16, with a British Tornado. Italy, October 2015. [NATO/Flickr]

Greek participation in military operations against Islamic State has been ruled out, according to Deputy Minister of Defence Dimitris Vitsas. EURACTIV Greece reports.

In the light of the coordinated attacks in Paris that killed more than 130 people, French warplanes pounded ISIS positions in Syria on Sunday (15 November).

>>Read: France launches airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria

The debt-ridden country is struggling to cope with a surge of refugees, many fleeing the civil war in Syria. Last month, 218,394 people crossed the sea — all but 8,000 of them landing in Greece — compared with 219,000 arrivals during all of last year, UN figures showed.

>>Read: Tsipras under pressure to tear down Turkish border fence

Athens has committed to taking in 30,000 refugees by the end of the year, with the United Nations guaranteeing support for 20,000 additional asylum seekers.

“No rational person could rule out the scenario of terrorists having crossed the Greek borders,” Greece’s Alternate Minister of Immigration Policy, Iannis Mouzalas, admitted in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

The minister emphasised that control of refugees could be more effectively coordinated in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

“One cannot control in the sea […]. In the sea, one rescues. Our sea borders cannot be preventive,” he explained.

>>Read: Paris attacks give EU leaders excuse to get tough on refugees

Activation of collective defense?

In an interview with NPR, James Stavridis, a former NATO Allied Supreme Commander, said that Paris attacks were similar to the terrorist attacks of 11 September, which triggered the activation of NATO’s Article 5.

The “collective defense” article says that an attack against one member of the alliance is an attack against all of them.

“I rule out Greece’s participation in any military operation plan. There are other ways to contribute […] Greece should play the role of peace and stability in the entire region,” the leftist minister said, adding that no one could force Greece to take part [in military operations].

Greece has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization since 1952.

“We demand a solution that has an element of political stability in Syria,” Vitsas said. 

“Any nation of the 28 in NATO has the authority to request an Article 4 consultation, which leads to an Article 5 declaration. I think France will do that. And I think they have pretty good - pretty good, valid grounds for that, particularly if you put the death level and the injury level on a population-adjusted basis - population of France about one-sixth that of the United States - this really starts to resemble a 9/11 level event”, James Stavridis, a former NATO ?llied Supreme Commander told NPR on Sunday (15 November). 

  • 17-18 November: The Greek premier Alexis Tsipras will visit Turkey to discuss the refugee crisis

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