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Turkey starts naval exercise amid Cyprus gas dispute

AFP  |  Ankara 

Turkey's military launched a major naval exercise on Monday at a time of rising tensions over its plans to explore for gas off the coast of Cyprus.

The exercises, featuring 131 vessels, 57 planes and 33 helicopters, began early on Monday, a Turkish defence ministry official confirmed to AFP.

They are due to last until May 25 and take place across the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black seas. It

follows Turkey's announcement in May that it would carry out exploratory drilling off Cyprus up to September. The European Union has said that will encroach on Cyprus's exclusive economic zone, while the United States described the move as "highly provocative".

The international community does not recognise the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, proclaimed after troops occupied the top third of the island in 1974 in response to a coup sponsored by the Greek military junta.

The discovery of huge gas reserves in the Mediterranean has fuelled a race to tap the underwater resources.

Turkey considers the area to be part of its continental shelf and granted exploration licences to Turkish Petroleum in 2009 and 2012.

The internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus, which rules the rest of the island, has signed its own exploration deals with energy giants Eni, Total and ExxonMobil.

Speaking on Sunday, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar insisted Turkey would take all necessary measures to "protect its rights in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, and in Cyprus".

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, May 13 2019. 15:56 IST