Cypriot Defense Minister Savvas Angelides says a French frigate within the Cypriot exclusive economic zone (EEZ) was not intended to militarize a situation but to show support from France towards the Republic’s sovereign rights.
“Let me be clear, first of all, so that no wrong messages are sent out. There is no intention to militarize the whole situation, that’s for sure,” Angelides told a local TV channel on Saturday.
According to Cyprus News Agency, Cyprus and France completed on Sunday a joined military exercise within the Cypriot EEZ. The FNS La Fayette, the OPV Ioannides, Special Forces of the Cyprus Navy and an AW-139 helicopter of the Cyprus Air Force, conducted a series of training exercises off the southern coast of Cyprus and within EEZ Blocks 6,7,10 and 11.
Nicosia cried foul recently over Ankara sending drill ship Yavuz inside block 7, a zone claimed by the Republic of Cyprus as part of its exclusive economic zone and licensed to Italy’s Eni and France's Total in an agreement signed in September.
Turkey has been repeatedly opposing Nicosia’s drilling plans, executed by the Greek Cypriots, and threatened unilateral action saying Turkish Cypriots on the divided island also ought to have a say in the development of hydrocarbons in the area. Greek Cypriots say profits from natural gas would be shared fairly following a solution to Cyprus’ political problem.
While Angelides declined to comment on whether the frigate would enter Block 7, saying he did not want to get into specifics, the minister told a local TV news anchor over the weekend that the presence of the French navy was showing France’s support towards the Republic of Cyprus’ right to exercise its sovereign rights within the Cypriot EEZ.
The exercise, which took place between 8.30 a.m. and 2.45 p.m., “further deepened the operational cooperation between the Republic of Cyprus and France,” according to a Cyprus Defense Ministry press release.
According to the statement, the joint aeronautical Exercise (PASSEX) titled CYP/FRA/2019 was carried out on the basis of a bilateral agreement drawn up between the two countries on matters of cooperation and defense.
The joined exercise was deemed a success that helped improve operational capabilities, enhance the level of communication and understanding, and foster a spirit of cooperation, according to the press release.
CNA also reported that CYP/FRA/2019 created the conditions for further cooperation in other fields, while also delivering a message of synergy, determination, and solidarity with the aim of freely exercising the sovereign rights of the countries and maintaining a climate of stability and security in the southeastern Mediterranean region and the Middle East.
Three of a total of five French La Fayette-class frigates have recently been upgraded with anti-submarine capabilities, with war experts saying this boosted the La Fayette to the first rank listing of warships. [Kathimerini Cyprus]