Ankara starts naval exercise as Cyprus gas dispute continues

Turkey launched a major naval exercise on Monday at a time of rising tensions over its plans to explore for gas off the coast of Cyprus.

The exercises, featuring 131 vessels, 57 planes and 33 helicopters, began early Monday, AFP reported, citing a Turkish defense ministry official. They are due to last until May 25 and take place across the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black seas.

The maneuvers follow Ankara’s announcement in May that it would carry out exploratory drilling off Cyprus up to September.

The EU says that will encroach on Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, while the US described the move as “highly provocative.”

The international community does not recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, proclaimed after troops occupied the top third of the island in 1974 in response to a coup sponsored by the Greek military junta

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