Turkish air and naval forces conducted joint drills in the Aegean Sea, the country’s defence ministry said amid a spiralling row with neighbouring Greece over hydrocarbon resources.
F-16 fighter jets took part in the exercises alongside warships to “enhance, maintain and improve the operational capability of joint inter-forces operations,” the ministry posted on Twitter.
Conflicting Interests in Eastern Mediterranean
The news came as Turkey and Greece, both NATO members since 1952, have been at loggerheads over gas and oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and a day after Turkey declared massive gas discoveries in the Black Sea - something President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin referred to as “just the beginning”.
“The work will continue for exploration as well as drilling at the same time. We’re very hopeful that it will lead to other fields in the same area,” he commented on the vast gas discoveries that Turkey struck under its territorial waters.
Two weeks ago, Ankara sent a warship-escorted research vessel to monitor the waters where Greece claims exclusive rights to the underlying seabed. In response, Athens sent its own warships to the location, placing its military on high alert. France, which has also been at odds with the Turks over their operations in Libya, also weighed in on the controversy, sending warships and planes to carry out joint drills with the Greeks.
Greek officials said Friday that the United Arab Emirates would also dispatch fighter jets to the southern Greek island of Crete for joint training next week.
The Greece-Turkey relationship has nearly always been tense, with the two having found themselves on the brink of a military standoff at least three times since the mid-1970s, including once over drilling rights in the Aegean Sea that separates the two neighbours.