NATO stages manoeuvre in Istanbul

Xinhua – July 5, 2012

A NATO top commander said on Wednesday that NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 is carrying out a manoeuvre in Turkey’s Istanbul as part of its mission to defense against terrorism in the Mediterranean area.

Adm. Thorsten Kahler, top commander of the fleet, told a press briefing in Istanbul that German, French and Turkish frigates have docked in Istanbul’s Sarayburnu as regular port visits.

“Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 is a high security force of the alliance. We are carrying out a manoeuvre in Istanbul as part of our mission to defense against terrorism in the Mediterranean,” the NATO commander was quoted by Turkey’s semi-official Anatolia news agency.

Kahler said the fleet’s Istanbul visit “had nothing to do” with the continuing violence in Syria and the latest incident between Turkey and its southern neighbor which saw the downing of a Turkish military plane by Syrian forces late last month.

Kahler said the fleet would stay in Istanbul for three days before setting sail for the Mediterranean again.

However, there is no detailed information about maneuver available. The fleet has a mission of staging manoeuvre, training and also conducting diplomatic tasks.

Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States are the routine contributors to the fleet, which is usually deployed in the Mediterranean.

Source 

Footnote – July 5, 2012

Iran’s Press TV reported that the NATO ships have left Turkish waters for the Mediterranean Sea. Although the fleet’s commander didn’t specify its intended destination, he did say:

“We are not telling our whole schedule, but we will stay in the region.”

In other words the ships won’t be sailing too far from the eastern Mediterranean and if necessary will be on hand to enforce a blockade on Syria, if so ordered.
They wont be alone.
Late last week two Russian warships also set sail for Syrian waters. They appeared to be heading to the port of Tartus carrying a detachment of marines to guard Russia’s naval facilities there and help evacuate Russian citizens if necessary.
Although neither is too forthcoming, both Russia and the West appear to be positioning their naval assets for any eventuality in Syria.

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