Turkey to hold military drills off coast of Cyprus as Greece continues exercises with France and Italy

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Turkey said on Thursday it will hold firing exercises in the eastern Mediterranean on Sept 1-2, the latest in a series of military drills which have fuelled tensions with Greece.

The announcement came hours before parliament in Greece is expected to ratify an agreement with Egypt which defines maritime boundaries between the two countries, a step which Turkey considers an affront.

NATO states Greece and Turkey have been locked in a dispute over control of eastern Mediterranean waters, which escalated after Ankara sent a seismic survey vessel to the disputed region this month in a move which Athens called illegal.

They are at odds over the rights to potential hydrocarbon resources, based on conflicting claims over the extent of their continental shelves.

In this photo provided by the Greek Defense Ministry, warships take part in a military exercise in Eastern Mediterranean sea, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. (Greek Defense Ministry via AP)

The Turkish navy issued the latest advisory, known as a Navtex, on Thursday saying it will hold the shooting exercises in the eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Iskenderun, northeast of Cyprus. It also extended the seismic work of its Oruc Reis survey vessel, southwest of Cyprus, until Sept 1.

As the dispute widened, France said on Wednesday it was joining military exercises with Italy, Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the deployment of French military aircraft in Cyprus violated treaties regarding the control and administration of the island after independence from Britain in 1960.

Aksoy said that France’s stance was dangerously encouraging Greece and Cyprus to further escalate tensions in the region.

Parliament in Greece is expected to ratify an accord on Thursday evening defining its sea boundaries with Egypt, having ratified a similar deal with Italy.

Greece now plans to extend its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea to 12 nautical miles from its coast, from six nautical miles. Turkey has warned that a similar move by Athens in waters east of Greece would be a cause for war.

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said that Greece’s right to shift its western maritime border stems from the Law of the Sea and it reserves the right to do so in other sea areas, when it decides.

“The tension is not created by Greece, which is ready to contribute in a de-escalation,” he said.

Sourced By: Reuters

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