Alwaght- Turkish army has carried out military drills in the Aegean Sea, amid escalating tensions with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean Sea over gas and oil exploration.
The Turkish Defense Ministry announced in a tweet that the country’s F-16 fighter jets took part alongside warships to “enhance, maintain and improve the operational capability of joint inter-forces operations.”
The announcement came as NATO members Turkey and Greece are facing off in the eastern Mediterranean Sea over energy exploration and a day after Ankara declared the discovery of huge natural gas reserves off its Black Sea coast.
Turkey is involved in a dispute over oil and gas exploration rights with Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.
Earlier in the month, Turkey dispatched a warship-escorted research vessel to explore for energy resources in the disputed waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, where Greece claims exclusive rights to the seabed. Athens responded by sending warships to the area and placing its military on alert. France, in clear signaling of support for Greece, also dispatched warships and planes for joint drills with Greek forces.
French President Emmanuel Macron has also called for EU sanctions against Ankara for “violations” of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty over their territorial waters.
The EU fully backed Greece’s maritime claims last week and sanctioned two Turkish energy executives, warning Ankara to “immediately” stop its oil and gas exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has, however, vowed to continue the country’s energy exploration in the disputed waters despite warnings from the EU and a military buildup by France.
Turkey had paused the research activities on a request from Germany but restarted them after a maritime agreement was signed between Greece and Egypt. Ankara described that agreement as “worthless” and an attempt to keep Turkey out of the region.
Father of Turkey's maritime doctrine warns France
In an interview with AFP on Saturday, retired Turkish admiral and author, Cem Gurdeniz, censured France's decision to send warships to help Greece in its Mediterranean standoff with Ankara and said the provocative move was adding "fuel to the fire.”
The 62-year-old father of Turkey's controversial new maritime doctrine criticized the French president’s “everyday verbal threats,” and said France should avoid escalating tensions with Ankara.
"For many Turks now, France is acting like an 'enfant terrible'. Can you imagine, they are threatening Turkey?" Gurdeniz said. "If France continues such provocative actions... that would not serve regional peace and stability — that would add fuel to the fire and France should avoid that."