PARIS (Reuters) – France joins military exercises with Italy, Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean amid a worsening dispute between Turkey and Greece over the region’s energy resources, said Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly on Wednesday.
Tensions between Turkey and Greece escalated after Ankara sent its study vessel Oruc Reis to disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean this month, a move Athens called illegal.
“The Eastern Mediterranean is becoming an area of tension. Respect for international law must be the rule and not the exception, ”Parly said on Twitter, adding that“ it should not be a playground for the ambitions of some ”.
Three Rafale fighter jets and a helicopter-equipped warship will be part of the joint military exercises, she said.
Relations between France and Turkey have deteriorated in recent months following Ankara’s actions within NATO, Libya and the Mediterranean.
President Emmanuel Macron called on the EU to show solidarity with Greece and Cyprus in the dispute over natural gas reserves off Cyprus and the extent of their continental shelves and pushed for new sanctions at the level from the EU, although there are divisions in the bloc on the issue.
Germany has sought to mediate between Ankara and Athens. On Tuesday, their respective foreign ministers said they wanted to resolve the issue through dialogue following discussions with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. However, everyone warned that they would continue to defend their rights in the region.
“Our message is simple: priority to dialogue, cooperation and diplomacy so that the Eastern Mediterranean becomes a zone of stability and respect for international law”, declared Parly.
Reporting by Tangi Salaun; Written by John Irish; Edited by Hugh LawsonM, William Maclean
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