Turkey starts military exercise off Cyprus coast
Turkish forces started on Tuesday a search and rescue exercise off the northeastern coast of the divided Cyprus, prompting protest from the Cypriot government, Xinhua reported.
The three-day Caner Gonyeli Exercise, named after a Turkish soldier who was killed during the 1974 military intervention, will be mainly staged near the Karpasia Peninsula, with the participation of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot forces.
The internationally recognized Cyprus government, which effectively controls the Greek Cypriot south, has made strong demarches to the United Nations and the European Union, saying the exercise infringes on the island's sovereign right, territorial waters and its airspace.
Government spokesmen Stephanos Stephanou noted that the Turkish exercise may be linked to Turkey's objection to the government's search for oil in its exclusive economic zone.
"We have a sovereign right to carry out research in our exclusive economic zone, in accordance with the Law of the Sea convention and this is what we are doing," said Stephanou.
Turkey is at odds with Cyprus' move to hand out oil and gas project licenses in the Mediterranean. Ankara argues that Turkish Cypriots living in the breakaway north should have a say in the undersea wealth and that Turkey has its own rights and interests in the region.
Cyprus has remained divided since 1974 when the Turkish military intervened and occupied the island's north following a coup by a group of Greek officers.
Turkish Cypriot authorities in 1983 declared the establishment of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey. Ankara has no diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state since May 2004.
The Cypriot government has said that Turkey's threats and demands for its oil exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea would hinder Ankara's EU accession.