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Turkey Steps Up Military Exercise Off Cyprus, UK Cancels Aegean Drill

NICOSIA. Just as the British Royal Navy has reportedly canceled a scheduled military drill near the Greek island of Karpathos, close to the Turkish coast, Turkey said it would conduct naval exercises off the coast of Cyprus.

With tensions rising after Turkish fighter jets have stepped up repeated violations of Greek air space with no reprimand from NATO – to which Greece and Turkey belong – nor the European Union, United States or United Nations – the British Navy canceled its navigational telex (NAVTEX) which had announced the drill and reserved the waters while alerting other countries and military vessels.

That had been declared by Turkey and the cancellation is the second after announcing that a third country would hold military exercises within Greek or Cypriot territorial waters.

In late July, Ankara had issued a navtex announcing an American military vessel would be conducting activities within Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) but the United States, apparently trying to balance interests between Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, which is marginal in its interests, denied it.

Turkey went ahead and said it will reserve waters off Cyprus’ EEZ for a military exercise on Aug. 17, coinciding with plans by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who refuses to recognize Cyprus and bars its ships and planes at the same time he wants to get Turkey into the EU – of which Cyprus is a member – sent an energy research vessel into Cypriot sovereign waters where international companies have been licensed to drill for oil and gas.

Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus’ right to drill for energy and has simultaneously demanded a share of any potentially lucrative finds.

Turkey has unlawfully occupied the northern third of Cyprus since invading in 1974.

More than 40 years of talks and hopes for reunification have been constantly dashed, including again in July at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana after Erdogan said Turkey would never pull out its 35,000-strong standing army in the occupied territories and would reserve the right to further invade when it wants.

That ended the negotiations and he has stepped up provocations against Cyprus, as well as Greece, which, along with the United Kingdom, is a guarantor of security for the divided island which seems set for permanent partition.

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