The joint military drills involving Greece, Egypt, the UAE and France concluded, just days before Turkey begins its round of exercises in Northern Cyprus on September 6th.
Forces of Turkey and Turkish Cyprus will start an annual five-day military drill, according to Turkey’s Defense Ministry.
The ministry said in a statement that the annual exercise is aimed at improving mutual training, cooperation, and interoperability between the Turkish Cypriot Peace Force Command and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Security Forces Command.
The exercise will be held with air, naval, and land elements from Turkey, the statement added.
Separately, it should be reminded that Turkey issued a navtex saying that live-fire naval drills would be carried out involving Russian warships in the eastern Mediterranean.
The navigational notice issued on September 2nd said the Russian exercises will take place Sept. 8-22 and Sept. 17-25 in areas of the Mediterranean where Turkish seismic research vessels are operating.
In Athens, Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said the planned Russian exercises were being “monitored by all the countries in the region, as well as our NATO allies and European Union partners.”
On September 4th, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on Friday he delivered a letter on Turkey’s activities in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, asking him to forward it to the UN Security Council.
Dendias said he met with Guterres in New York and discussed developments in the region and the Cyprus issue.
“He gave me the opportunity to explain to him what is happening in the Eastern Mediterranean, that Turkish illegality is creating problems for stability and peace in the region, and we also talked about the Greek-Egyptian agreement, a copy of which I gave to him,” he said in a series of tweets on his official account.
He also said he spoke by phone with Philip T. Reeker, the acting assistant secretary in charge of European and Eurasian Affairs on developments in the eastern Mediterranean.
Meanwhile, the EU mulls how to diffuse the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean – German Chancellor Angela Merkel is looking to mediate, once again.
European Council President Charles Michel said on September 4 that European Union leaders plan to adopt a “carrot and stick” strategy opposite Turkey at a summit on September 24 and 25 and proposed a multilateral conference focusing on sea borders in the East Med including NATO.
Michel underlined the EU’s “full solidarity opposite Athens and Nicosia” in the face of Turkey’s activities.
“We will identify tools in our external policy, a sticks and carrots approach – what tools to use to improve the relationship and what tools to react [with] if we are not being respected,” said Michel, who is expected to visit Greece and Cyprus before the summit. Such a summit could be “the best way to de-escalate in the region and offer a channel for dialogue,” Michel said. “What is happening, what has been happening the last few weeks, cannot go on.”
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis appealed to Turkey to stop its provocations.
“From all the many over-the-top statements that Mr Erdogan has made, there is only one I retain, the one about dialogue, and I respond with these six clear words: Stop the provocations, start the talks,” Mitsotakis said.
“Turkey’s illegal activities demand an international reaction,” Mitsotakis said.
On September 3rd, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said that Greece and Turkey had agreed to hold talks on diffusing the situation.
“Following my discussions with Greek and Turkish leaders, the two allies have agreed to enter into technical talks at NATO to establish mechanisms for military de-confliction to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the eastern Mediterranean,” he said.
“Greece and Turkey are valued allies, and NATO is an important platform for consultations on all issues that affect our shared security.”
Greece denied it had agreed to hold NATO-brokered talks with Turkey, according to media reports quoting Greek foreign ministry sources as saying that “de-escalation would only be achieved with the immediate withdrawal of all Turkish ships from the Greek continental shelf”.
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