Turkey launches naval exercises in eastern Mediterranean amidst tensions
Iran Press TV
Monday, 21 December 2020 10:59 AM
Turkey has staged naval drills in the eastern Mediterranean amidst tensions with the European Union over the announcement of sanctions against Ankara earlier this month.
Turkey's Defense Ministry said via Twitter that "elements of our navy command" conducted the naval exercises.
The ministry did not specify the exact location of the drills, but it posted photos showing a naval vessel firing a cannon.
On December 10, EU leaders agreed to impose limited sanctions against Turkish individuals over an energy exploration dispute with Greece and Cyprus. However, they backed away from an October threat to consider wider economic measures against Turkey.
Turkey slammed the move as "biased and illegal," with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying the sanctions would harm both sides and would be to no one's benefit.
"Our rights must be granted. There are now many rights that EU member states must grant Turkey," Erdogan said. "Reasonable countries in the EU thwarted this game by showing a positive stance."
Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus have been at loggerheads over the rich energy resources in their region. Back in August, Turkey dispatched a seismic exploration ship, dubbed Oruc Reis, as well as warships escorting it into Cyprus' exclusive economic zone, further escalating the tensions.
In late November, Turkey withdrew the research vessel to Antalya port from the disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean Sea ahead of a European Union meeting.
Back in September, Turkey had made a similar move, with the purported aim of reviving diplomacy with Greece, but sent it back to the contested waters in October, further infuriating Athens.
Meanwhile, the US imposed sanctions on Ankara on December 14 over Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system.
The US sanctions targeted Turkey's Presidency of Defense Industries, its military procurement agency, its chief Ismail Demir and three other senior Turkish officials.
Erdogan, in response, denounced the sanctions as a "hostile attack" on the sovereign rights of his country.
"What kind of alliance is this? What kind of partnership is this? This decision is an open hostile attack against our country's sovereign rights," the Turkish president said in a televised speech on Wednesday.
However, the move was welcomed by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who expressed optimism over the imposition of sanctions against Ankara, which he described as "a destabilizing factor in our region."
Dendias said Ankara has stopped dialogue with Athens and not the other way around, adding, "We have to make it clear to Turkey where the red lines are."
He also pointed to the EU's sanctions and said: "I assure you that the European Union deals with Turkey now as a problem facing Europe, and not as a country that has differences with Greece and Cyprus."
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