Turkey to conduct military exercise in Aegean sea on Greek election day

Turkey has issued a navigational telex reserving a large area south of the island of Kastellorizo for military exercises on Sunday as Greeks go to general elections, Greek daily Kathimerini reported on Friday.

Turkey has reserved an area that falls in Greece’s continental shelf, stretching from the south of Kastellorizo westwards towards Rhodes, for exercises that will use live ammunition, the newspaper said. 

The move came amid heightened tensions between two countries over hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean. According to Greek military sources, Turkey has also escalated airspace violations this week with Greek and Turkish jets engaging in mock dogfights 11 times on Thursday and Wednesday. 

Turkey sent a vessel to waters well inside the Cyprus exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in early May which later started drilling. The Yavuz, accompanied by Turkish navy, set sail two weeks ago to start operating off the Karpas Peninsula on the northeast of Cyprus in early July.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the Cyprus government could not take steps against Turkey’s drilling activities during a television interview with state-run TRT this week. 

“They know they cannot take a step against us, and if they dare to do so they will get their response like in the past,” Kathimerini quoted Çavuşoğlu as saying. According to the newspaper the minister was referring to events in 1974, when Turkey invaded the north of the island in response to a Greek Cypriot coup aiming to unite the island with Greece

Turkey, the only nation to recognise the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, maintains that attempts by Cyprus to conduct gas exploration are a violation of the rights of the Turkish part of the divided island.

The European Council, which is made up of the EU’s political leadership, issued a statement last month condemning Turkey’s drilling activities off Cyprus and saying it would now consider what measures to take in response.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday accused Nicosia of threatening Turkish Cypriot state due to support it received from the EU and the bloc of not acting honestly when it comes to Cyprus. 

“We are taking all necessary steps within the law,” Erdoğan said during a press conference after an official visit to China. “But if we come across those who ignore the law, we know how to respond in a tone they will understand,” he said.