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Iran Press TV

Turkey stages military drills in north Cyprus amid tensions with Greece

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 06 September 2020 5:59 PM

Turkey has kicked off its annual military exercises in the breakaway republic of northern Cyprus on Sunday amid growing dispute with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean.

Vice President Fuat Oktay said in a Twitter post on Sunday that the Turkish military began its exercises called "Mediterranean Storm" with the Turkish Cypriot Security Command.

"The security priorities of our country and the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) are indispensable," Oktay said.

The Turkish Defense Ministry also announced that the drills, which are due to last until Thursday, continued "successfully".

Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, have been embroiled in a long-running territorial dispute in the eastern Mediterranean over the region's rich resources.

Turkey has been pursuing a gas exploration effort in the disputed waters, dispatching a research vessel escorted by its Navy warships. There have been encounters with rival Greek vessels.

The energy dispute builds upon a much longer history of animosity between Turkey and Greece, dating back to 1974 when Turkish forces invaded Cyprus in response to a Greek-backed military coup.

Cyprus has also accused Turkey of breaching its sovereignty by drilling in the waters. All sides have deployed naval and air forces to assert their competing claims.

Greece has already launched naval exercises with several EU countries, as well as the United Arab Emirates, in the disputed waters.

The energy dispute has raised the specter of a possible military confrontation.

On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Greece to enter talks over disputed territorial claims in the eastern Mediterranean or face "painful" consequences.

"They're either going to understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or in the field with painful experiences," Erdogan said at a hospital's opening ceremony in Istanbul.

He also warned that Ankara was prepared to defend Turkey's territorial rights at any cost.

The energy rivalry has dimmed the prospect of Turkey joining the European Union, which has called for dialog but has sided with member Greece.

France has been particularly assertive against Turkey, building up military presence in the region and conducting joint drills with Greece.

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