Turkey launched its largest military exercise on Monday at a time of rising tensions over its plans to explore for gas off Cyprus despite international pressure to withdraw from the island’s EEZ.
The exercises codenamed Sea Wolf is being conducted across the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black sea with a 131 vessels, 57 aircraft and 33 helicopters taking part until May 25.
Ankara’s show of strength comes after it announced it would conduct exploratory drilling off Cyprus up to September.
In the exercise Turkish naval forces will carry out strategic and operational scenarios similar to crisis-tension situations and wartime.
Submarines, frigates, naval artillery, armed UAVs, as well as search and rescue units will also participate.
The European Union has warned Turkey not to encroach on Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, while the United States described the move as highly provocative. There has also been support for Nicosia from China, Russia, Israel and Egypt.
The discovery of huge gas reserves in the East Med has fuelled a race to tap underwater resources.
Turkey considers the area to be part of its continental shelf and said Turkish Cypriots granted exploration licenses to Turkish Petroleum in 2009 and 2012.
The internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus has signed its own exploration deals with energy giants Eni, Total and ExxonMobil.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar insisted Turkey would take all necessary measures to protect its rights in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, and in Cyprus.
Ankara does not recognise EU member state Cyprus, but it does recognise the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus which is deemed an illegal regime by the international community.
Source: The Financial Mirror