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Turkey Launches Shooting Exercises in Eastern Mediterranean Amid Drilling Tensions With Greece

© AP Photo / Vadim Ghirda Turkish NATO warship TCG Turgutreis, foreground, maneuvers on the Black Sea after leaving the port of Constanta, Romania, Monday, March 16, 2015.
 Turkish NATO warship TCG Turgutreis, foreground, maneuvers on the Black Sea after leaving the port of Constanta, Romania, Monday, March 16, 2015. - Sputnik International
The development comes as Ankara is engaged in a bitter territorial dispute with Greece and Cyprus. The European Union has threatened to slap sanctions on Turkey if it continues with what Brussels has called "illegal drilling".

Turkey has announced shooting drills in the eastern Mediterranean that will last from 29 August until 11 September. Ankara informed about its decision via NAVTEX, an international maritime communication channel used to send navigational warnings, search and rescue notices, and meteorological forecasts.

Turkey is now conducting exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean, a move that has further exacerbated tensions with its neighbours – Greece and Cyprus – and prompted concern in the European Union. An informal summit of the bloc’s foreign ministers was held in Berlin on 28 August, where participants agreed to speed up the imposition of sanctions on Turkey. The foreign ministers said the European Union will impose the punitive measures on 24 September if talks on the territorial dispute with Ankara fail.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Turkey hasn’t been behaving like a NATO ally and noted that there is a "growing frustration in the face of Turkey’s behaviour". Macron also announced that the European Union will adopt a tough stance towards Ankara.

"When it comes to Mediterranean sovereignty, I have to be consistent in deeds and words. I can tell you that the Turks only consider and respect that", said Macron.

Sea of Discord

Turkey previously claimed that its drilling operations in the eastern Mediterranean are being carried out on its continental shelf and hence are in line with international law. Greece and Cyprus claim that Turkey has crossed into their exclusive economic zones and those of the European Union, as both countries are members of the bloc.

Turkish seismic research vessel Oruc Reis is seen in Istanbul, Turkey, August 22, 2019. Picture taken August 22, 2019 - Sputnik International
Merkel on Greece-Turkey East Med Row: All EU Countries Have Obligation to Support Athens

Tensions have risen between Turkey and Greece in recent weeks after Ankara sent its survey ship the Oruc Reis into an area that Athens claims is part of its continental shelf. Both countries mobilised their navies, with Athens saying it would stand up for its sovereignty by all available means. Greece also launched naval drills this week in the area where Turkey is prospecting for oil and gas. Later France, Cyprus, and Italy said they would join Athens.

Turkey has harshly criticised the move and warned Greece against taking a "path to ruin".

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