Turkey begins military exercises in Northern Cyprus

Turkey's armed forces on Sunday began annual exercises in the republic of Northern Cyprus, an entity only recognized by Ankara, amid rising tension in the eastern Mediterranean. 


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, September 4, 2020. /Reuters

The Turkish military began its exercises called " Mediterranean storm" with the Turkish Cypriot Security Command, Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Twitter. 

"The security priorities of our country and the TRNC [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] are indispensable, along with diplomatic solutions in the eastern Mediterranean," Oktay said.  

He added that the military exercises, which last until Thursday, continued "successfully."

The two NATO members, Turkey and Greece, have been locked in a dispute over hydrocarbon exploration in the sea's disputed waters and the extent of their continental shelves. 

Cyprus, which is divided between the Greek Cypriot-run south – an EU member state – and the Turkish Cypriot north, is at the center of the confrontation between the two sides. 

Turkey has stationed tens of thousands of troops in the north of the island since 1974, which followed a coup engineered by military rulers in Greece. Provocative comments and steps by European politicians on regional matters would not help achieve a solution, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was cited as saying by his office on Sunday. 

"President Erdogan said the attitude shown by the EU in the eastern Mediterranean will be a test of sincerity from the perspective of international law and regional peace," the statement said. 

"President Erdogan called on EU institutions and member countries to behave responsibly and remain just, impartial and objective on all regional issues, notably the eastern Mediterranean," it added. 

European Council President Charles Michel had said on Friday that European Union leaders will decide on a "carrot and stick" approach to Turkey when they meet on September 24-25, proposing a conference to defuse tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. 

Last month Turkey sent a seismic survey vessel for hydrocarbon exploration in disputed waters in the region after a maritime deal between Greece and Egypt.

According to data provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Levant region of the eastern Mediterranean – which includes Syrian coasts – holds a reserve of 1.7 billion barrels of oil and 3.5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. 

In 2019, the total consumption of natural gas in Europe was 554.1 billion cubic meters, according to BP. Whoever controls the marine resources of the eastern Mediterranean could become a potential powerhouse among European countries.

(With input from agencies)