Turkey reserves area between Greek islands for military exercises - report

Turkey issued a navigational telex reserving an area between the Greek islands of Rhodes and Kastellorizo for military exercises, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Thursday.

The Navtex issued at 11.26 a.m. on Thursday came as Greece and Egypt signed a maritime borders agreement delimiting an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two countries, in a zone that contains offshore gas and oil reserves.

Turkey is planning gunnery exercises on Aug. 10 and 11, said Kathimerini, which cited an announcement by the Greek Naval Force’s Office of Navigation, Hydrography and Oceanography.

Last month, Greece and Turkey reached the brink of an armed confrontation after Ankara’s decision to send a research vessel escorted by warships to Kastellorizo to conduct oil and gas exploration. Turkey later decided to pause exploration and drilling for hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean for a month to reduce tensions with Greece and the European Union.

Political and military tensions between NATO allies Turkey and Greece have surged in the past year after Turkey sought to explore for minerals off the coast of Cyprus. Ankara, which does not recognise Cyprus as a state, claims half of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on behalf of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and has repeatedly carried out warship-escorted offshore drilling in the territory.

Turkey is also pursuing what it calls its “Blue Homeland” naval expansion doctrine, which lays claim to wide-ranging territorial waters in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas – resulting in a series of territorial violations with Greece.

In July 2019, Turkey made a similar announcement via Navtex that it would conduct military exercises in the area, on the same day as Greece’s general election.