Naval exercises raises tension in the region

Cypriot media claims Nicosia cleared Israel, UK maneuvers, to lodge UN complaint over separate, unauthorized Turkish drill.

Greek and Israeli naval officers 370 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office)
Greek and Israeli naval officers 370
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office)
Heightened tension was noted in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on Thursday amid reports that Israeli, British and Turkish naval forces were conducting simultaneous maneuvers near Cyprus.
Cypriot media reports claimed that Israel and the UK requested and received permission from Cyprus to hold their maneuvers but that the Turkish Navy did not, and as a result Nicosia was considering submitting an official complaint to the United Nations.
Ties between Israel, Cyprus and Greece have grown in recent years following the discovery of gas fields in the Mediterranean, some of them in areas that border Israeli and Cypriot economic waters. Ankara is opposed to Jerusalem’s decision to partner with Nicosia and has announced that it too will be conducting gas exploration in the area.
“With all of these navies in the region something could happen,” one European diplomat said on Thursday when discussing the developments.
IDF sources could not confirm reports but the navy announced earlier this week that it was increasing its patrols in the eastern Mediterranean, to protect gas fields where Israel is planning to begin extraction within the coming year.
In addition, the navy is looking to secure a NIS 3 billion budget to purchase new surface vessels it claims are needed to effectively patrol and protect the new economic waters.
Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras said Thursday that Turkey’s naval maneuvers were a violation of Cypriot sovereignty.
“The constant efforts of Turkey to question the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus as well as to offend European institutions, such as the EU presidency, need to be put to an end. It is a wrong perception that leads nowhere,” Delavekouras said at a briefing in Athens.
Coincidentally, Greek navy commander Vice Admiral Kosmas Christidis wrapped up a four-day visit to Israel on Thursday, during which he met with OC Navy Vice- Adm. Ram Rothberg and sailed on a Sa’ar 5-class missile ship.
Defense officials said it was the first time that the commander of the Hellenic Navy has visited Israel, which they pointed to as a demonstration of the growing ties between the two countries.
Jerusalem has significantly boosted its defense ties with Athens – to replace Ankara, which used to be the IDF’s main training partner.