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Turkey to hold military drills in eastern Mediterranean

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Turkey said on Thursday it will hold firing exercises in the eastern Mediterranean on Sept 1-2, the latest in a series of military drills which have fuelled tensions with Greece.

The two NATO states have been locked in a bitter dispute over control of eastern Mediterranean waters which escalated after Ankara sent a seismic survey vessel to the disputed region this month in a move which Athens called illegal.

They are at odds over claims to potential hydrocarbon resources based on conflicting views about the extent of their continental shelves in waters dotted with mostly Greek islands.

The Turkish navy issued the latest advisory, known as a Navtex, on Thursday saying it will hold the shooting exercises in the eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Iskenderun, northeast of Cyprus.

As the dispute widened, France said on Wednesday it was joining military exercises with Italy, Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the deployment of French military aircraft in Greek Cyprus violated treaties regarding the control and administration of the island after independence from Britain in 1960.

Aksoy said that France’s stance was dangerously encouraging Greece and Cyprus to further escalate tensions in the region.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 following a Turkish invasion triggered by a Greek-inspired coup. The island’s Greek Cypriots live mostly in the south, and Turkish Cypriots in the north. 

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