Turkey War Games Set for Three Seas as Gas Finds Stir Tensions

(Bloomberg) -- Turkey’s navy will hold its biggest ever exercises as the country flexes its military might amid territorial tussles with Greece and Cyprus.

Frigates and destroyers are to be deployed to the Black Sea, the Aegean and the Mediterranean for the “Blue Homeland” drills between Feb. 27 and March 8, and will be joined by Turkish warplanes and army units, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has increasingly used Turkey’s armed forces, the second largest in NATO in terms of personnel, to back his foreign policy goals since placing the command under civilian rule following a failed coup in 2016. Turkey is disputing sovereignty over several islets in the Aegean Sea with Greece, and has started its own search for gas in the eastern Mediterranean, retaliating to big discoveries by Cyprus in recent years.

Turkey -- which sent troops to Cyprus in the wake of a 1974 coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece -- vehemently opposes the Cypriot exploration without an agreement on sharing the proceeds of any finds.

“We are not going to allow any unilateral hydrocarbon activities in the east Mediterranean,” military spokesman Major Sebnem Aktop said in Ankara on Tuesday. “No project that is excluding Turkey and the Northern Turkish Cypriot Republic has a chance of surviving.”

The internationally recognized government of the Republic of Cyprus has licensed several offshore exploration blocks, some of which are in disputed waters that have drawn threats from Turkey.

Ankara is planning to dispatch a second drilling ship to areas around Cyprus later in February.

“We will see results of drilling by the first ship at the end of this month or early next month,” Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on Friday. “The second drilling ship will enter Turkish waters around Feb. 20.”

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