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Turkey stages new military drills in eastern Mediterranean amid tensions with Greece

ISTANBUL — Turkey launches new military maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean that are expected to last two weeks, as tensions between Ankara and Athens mounted over maritime borders and gas drilling rights.

The dispute has reignited the long-running rivalry between Greece and Turkey, with the two neighbors staging rival naval drills.

In a message on NAVTEX, the international maritime navigational telex system, Turkey says it will carry out “shooting exercises” from today until September 11 in a zone off the southern Turkish town of Anamur, north of the island of Cyprus.

Ankara had already announced on Thursday that military exercises would take place on Tuesday and Wednesday in a zone further east.

In a sign of the volatility of the situation, Turkey’s defense ministry said yesterday that fighter jets had on Thursday intercepted six Greek aircraft which were approaching a zone where a Turkish research ship was deployed, forcing them to turn around.

It was the deployment of the Turkish research vessel Oruc Reis into Greek waters on August 10 that caused the current spike in tensions.

The European Union yesterday warned Turkey it could face fresh sanctions — including tough economic measures — unless progress is made in reducing soaring tensions.

Turkey responded angrily to the warning.

Other irritants have marred ties between Ankara and Athens, including the question of migrants crossing from Turkey to Greece, Turkey’s conversion of some Byzantine churches and cathedrals into mosques and Greece’s intention to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles from the current six.

— AFP

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