ANKARA: Turkey has announced that Russia will hold live-fire naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, amid escalating tensions between Turkey and its coastal neighbors Greece and Cyprus over rights to search for energy resources in the region.
The navigational notice issued late on Wednesday 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.
There was no immediate comment from Russia on the exercises, which Turkey announced after the US said it was partially lifting a 33-year-old arms embargo against ethnically divided Cyprus.
It is unclear why NATO-member Turkey would announce such drills on Moscow’s behalf, but the two countries have in recent years significantly strengthened their military, political and economic ties. They are coordinating closely on their military presence in Syria, while Turkey has purchased Russia’s advanced S-400 missiles and has broken ground on a Russian-built nuclear power plant on its southern coast.
Turkey has reacted angrily to the US move that it said went against the “spirit of alliance” between Washington and Ankara. It also warned that it would harm efforts to reunify Cyprus, which is split between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities. Turkish officials have also vowed to take steps to guarantee the security of a self-declared Turkish state in the island’s north.
Turkey’s announcement comes at a time of increased friction between Turkey on the one side and Greece and Cyprus on the other over offshore energy exploration rights. Warships from Greece and Turkey have been shadowing each other in recent weeks as Turkish survey vessels and drill ships continue to prospect for hydrocarbons in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights.