Turkey issues Navtex for exercises off Greece on Greek election day: report

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MUGLA, TURKEY - JANUARY 30: Turkish and Greek coast guard boats patrol around the Kardak islets in the Aegean Sea on the 21st anniversary of Kardak crisis, in Muğla, Turkey on January 30, 2017. Greece and Turkey experienced a military crisis and dispute over the Kardak islands in 1996. AFP

Turkey has issued a navigational telex reserving a large area south of the island of Kastellorizo, within Greece’s continental shelf, for military exercises on Sunday as Greeks go to general elections, the Greek Kathimerini newspaper reported.

The Turkish Navtex has reserved an area stretching from the south of Kastellorizo westwards towards Rhodes for exercises that will use live ammunition.

The move comes in the wake of claims by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that Ankara will take “necessary steps” to prevent Cyprus from drilling for hydrocarbons in its exclusive economic zone, and threats by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to Nicosia that any effort to stop Turkey from carrying out its plans to drill in the area would meet with an aggressive response.

“To us, these kinds of threats from the Greek-Cypriot administration are meaningless,” Çavuşoğlu told state-run TRT Haber television on Thursday. “They know they cannot take a step against us, and if they dare to do so they will get a response like in the past,” he said, apparently referring to Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus in 1974.

Referring to the activities of the Turkish drillship Fatih and the planned drilling by another, the Yavuz, Çavuşoğlu said it was Turkey’s prerogative to decide what to do inside its continental shelf. He added that it was the duty of Turkey, as a guarantor power, to protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots.

Meanwhile Erdoğan was quoted by Hürriyet as telling a group of journalists on a plane returning from China late on Tuesday that Turkey was taking “the necessary steps” to stop Cyprus from drilling in what is the Cypriot EEZ.

“We are taking the necessary steps within the law, and we will continue to do so,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying. “But if we come up against people who do not understand about legality, we know how to speak the language they understand,” he said.

“It is unacceptable that those who have no legal rights there try to make gains,” he added. Erdoğan also hit out at the European Union over its stance on the issue, claiming that it is influenced by Nicosia and has not given funding to the Turkish-occupied north.

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