Turkey announces new military exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean

The drill, called "Martyr Capt. Cengiz Topel Mediterranean Storm 2020", will take place between 6 and 10 September
The Turkish seismic research vessel Oruç Reis

REUTERS/YORUK ISIK  -   The Turkish seismic research vessel Oruç Reis

Turkey's latest move into the waters of the eastern Mediterranean further increases tension in the region. The Ministry of Defence of the country of the Bosphorus has announced this Saturday new military manoeuvres, which will be carried out between this Sunday and next Thursday, in the middle of an unprecedented political crisis due to the search for natural gas in this area. 

The simulation, called "Martyr Capt. Cengiz Topel Mediterranean Storm 2020", will last five days, from September 6 to 10, and will be carried out together with the so-called -- by Ankara -- Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), as indicated by the Turkish Ministry of Defence in an official statement. 

"The purpose of the exercise, which is planned every year, is to develop mutual training, cooperation and interoperability between the Command of the Peace Forces of Cyprus and Turkey and the Command of the Security Forces of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," the document, which has been collected by various Turkish media, added. These exercises will be carried out with the participation of land, air and naval forces. 

The strategic importance of this region has always been present since, on the one hand, it is the gateway to the Red Sea through Egypt and, on the other hand, the entrance to Europe. The discovery of large gas deposits by Israel, Egypt and Lebanon in 2009 has opened a new wound in the area.  In this context, the Eurasian nation does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus and maintains that the citizens of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state that only recognises Ankara, are entitled to a share of the island's gas resources. 

Disagreements over who can exploit the gas in Mare Nostrum have increased tensions in the region. This announcement came after NATO urged Greece and Turkey to have a dialogue in Brussels on this issue. Previously, the country chaired by Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused France and Greece of acting like "thugs" by sending warships to Cyprus.

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, has also proposed opening a multilateral conference on the Eastern Mediterranean with the countries of the European Union, Turkey and other partners in the region to try to reduce tension in this area. "The first thing is to de-escalate and this conference may be the best tool to open up a channel to develop a credible solution in the region", he said in an interview with the EFE news agency. 

Tension has been heightened after Ankara announced the start of seismic prospecting activities by the ship Orus Reis. One of the last chapters in this diplomatic conflict took place a week ago, after the Turkish Vice President, Fuat Oktay, commented on Greece's announcement to extend its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea, off Italy, from 6 to 12 nautical miles, and warned that a similar gesture in the Aegean would lead to war.