A French-Cypriot naval exercise is underway off the coast of Cyprus, with the Cypriot government underlining the drill’s importance for bilateral cooperation with Paris, as well as in relation to the messages it is sending about Cyprus’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The drill was announced by French Defence Minister, Florence Parly, who wrote on twitter that French-Cypriot naval exercises are held in Cypriot waters, within the framework of an excellent cooperation. We wish to allow Cyprus, an EU member state, to be able to ensure its responsibilities in its sovereign waters, Parly added.
Cyprus’ Defence Minister Savvas Angelides told CNA that “the naval drill is important, in the framework of Cypriot-French cooperation, while it is also sending a message in relation to exercising the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus in its EEZ.”
At the same time, we remain committed to our efforts to terminate Turkish illegal activities through political, diplomatic and legal means, Angelides noted.
Government Spokesman Prodromos Prodromou also referred to the French-Cypriot naval drill, saying that it is part of the close cooperation between the two countries. “France reinforces the Republic of Cyprus is exercising its sovereign rights, in line with the unanimous stance of the EU” Prodromou wrote on twitter.
Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told Greek television on Friday that Paris was sending one of its frigates in Cyprus’ EEZ.
Earlier on Saturday, a government source speaking to CNA confirmed the presence of a French frigate in Cyprus’ EEZ, underlining at the same time that Nicosia aims not at the militarisation of the issue. The same source said that Nicosia is coordinating closely with member states, such as France and Italy.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. Turkey has ignored numerous UN resolutions calling for the withdrawal of the Turkish troops and respect of the integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus.
Turkey has dispatched several vessels in areas that fall within the continental shelf/EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus. According to a navigational warning, Turkish drill ship “Yavuz” is set to carry out drilling operations inside block 7, located off the south-western coast of Cyprus.
“Yavuz”, was anchored off the island’s north-eastern coast on July 8 and operated within the territorial waters of the Republic of Cyprus, until September 17, when it departed for a Turkish port in Mersin.
Moreover, Turkey issued a navigational telex (navtex), announcing its intention to start drilling off Cyprus and since 4 May 2019, the Turkish drill ship “Fatih” has been anchored 36 nautical miles west of Akamas peninsula. The area falls within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf of the Republic of Cyprus. Ankara extended the navtex until November 1, 2019.
Cyprus has called on drill ship “Yavuz” and its supporting vessels to immediately cease illegal actions in the Republic’ Exclusive Economic Zone and its continental shelf.
A navigational telex (navtex), published on the website of the Joint Rescue and Coordination Centre (JRCC) stationed in Larnaca, also warned all those working on “Yavuz” and its supporting vessels that they will face consequences and an international arrest warrant will be issued against them.
In response to Turkish activities in Cyprus’ EEZ, EU Foreign Ministers endorsed on 15 July 2019 measures, suspending, among others, negotiations with Ankara on the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and postponing the Association Council and other EU-Turkey meetings. Moreover, the Council reduced the pre-accession assistance to Turkey for 2020 and invited the European Investment Bank to review its lending activities in the country.
In accordance with the 20 June 2019, European Council conclusions, Foreign Ministers also invited the High Representative and the Commission to continue working on options for targeted measures in light of Turkey’s continued drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.