A four-country air and sea military exercise involving France, Italy, Greece and Cyprus kicked off on Wednesday as a direct response to Turkish activities in the eastern Mediterranean, the Cypriot Defense Ministry has announced.
A written statement on Tuesday said the three-day drill would start on Wednesday morning off the south shores of Cyprus and close to an area where Turkish survey and drill ships have been active for some time and a Turkish military drill will be conducted.
“The quadrilateral initiative is a tangible proof of the shared understanding and dedication to law-based rules, as part of efforts to de-escalate tension through political means,” the Defense Ministry added.
The exercise, code-named “Eunomia,” Greek for “law-based rules” or legality, involves naval units from France, Greece, Italy and Cyprus, and French and Greek military planes. Three French Rafael and two Greek F-16 planes participating in the drill landed at an air base on the western shores of Cyprus on Tuesday.
Turkey drew criticism over the last few days from the European Union and individual EU countries, for starting survey and drilling activities in areas also claimed by Cyprus and Greece.
The Greek and Turkish navies are facing each other in the same general area between Cyprus and Crete after a Turkish survey ship was sent close to the shores of Crete.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited Greece and Turkey on Tuesday in an effort to convince the two countries out of their standoff over the marine jurisdiction differences and draw them into negotiations.
The Cypriot Defense Ministry said in its statement that Turkey’s activities “result in repeated violations of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and of customary international law, which are binding even for countries that are not signatories.”
Turkey said its activities are on its continental shelf.