In what has been described as a show of force to Greece and Cyprus, Turkey’s navy is preparing to hold its biggest ever exercises according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.
The “Blue Homeland” exercise, with the participation of frigates, destroyers and fighter jets, will take place in the Black Sea, the Aegean and the Mediterranean between February 27 and March 8.
News of the exercise came on the heels of unconfirmed reports on Wednesday that US energy giant ExxonMobil, which is licensed to explore hydrocarbon reserves in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), will announce the discovery of a significant reserve in Block 10.
For its part, the Cypriot government on Thursday refused to confirm the report.
Turkey has objected to Nicosia’s search for gas without the consent of Turkish Cypriots in the occupied north of the island, and a Turkish-Cypriot energy official told Anadolu that Turkish ships will soon begin offshore drilling activities around the island.
“We will protect the rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriots and take the necessary steps on the issue of natural gas, just as we do on other issues,” he said.
Meanwhile, Greece’s new defense minister, Evangelos Apostolakis, said on Thursday that regional peace and security are among Greece’s key foreign policy objectives. He was speaking after a NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels during which he held talks with his counterparts from Turkey and North Macedonia, as well as the chief of the North Atlantic Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg.
“The objective of these meetings and contacts is ultimately to maintain peace in the region, to reduce the number of outstanding problems and to strengthen security in the region,” Apostolakis said.