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Politics

Eyeing Turkey, French, Greek Naval Forces Conduct Exercise Off Crete

With Greece's military already on high alert and Naval ships near the island of Kastellorizo where Turkey sent an energy research vessel and warships, French naval forces joined with Greece in a military exercise off Crete.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would at some point also hunt for oil and gas there in Greek waters under a maritime deal with Libya dividing the seas between them. The US Navy has a base there at Souda Bay.

The Cretan exercise came after France also sent two fighter jets and a cargo plane to help patrol Cypriot waters near where the French energy company Total French President Emmanuel Macron has backed Greece with action, unlike the rest of the European Union which has done so only with press releases, statements and tweets while ducking reporters.

France wants to increase its presence in the East Mediterranean and said Turkey should stop its exploration off Cyprus. Turkey disputes parts of Cyprus' EEZ and has occupied the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis discussed the situation in the region with Macron by telephone, said Kathimerini, with the French armed forces ministry said it was sending two Rafale fighter jets and the naval frigate Lafayette to the region.

The frigate and the jets had arrived in Crete on Aug. 13 and carried out joint maneuvers Greek forces, a Greek defense source not named told the newspaper, with Mitsotakis praising Greece's ally.

"Emmanuel Macron is a true friend of Greece and a fervent defender of European values and international law," Mitsotakis tweeted, in French, after talking with Macron.

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