A pair of Rafale combat jets operated by the French Air Force was reportedly deployed to Andreas Papandreou Air Base in Cyprus’ Pafos city yesterday.
Some military experts said it could be a ‘warning’ to Turkey after it dispatched Oruc Reis research vessel and two auxiliary ships to conduct seismic survey in an area between Greece and Cyprus until August 23.
The French Rafale jets will take part in a joint exercise with Cypriot National Guard, according to some reports. The fighters were reportedly supported by a KC-130J tanker plane. A Transall C-160R military transport aircraft transferred ground equipment of Rafale jets from France to Pafos.
France pulled out of a NATO naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea last month citing differences it had with Turkey. On June 17, the Turkish navy allegedly “harassed” Courbet, a French battleship, after it carried out inspection of Turkey's Tanzanian-flagged Cirkin cargo ship, suspecting it to be smuggling arms into Libya. Paris claims Courbet was targeted three times by the Turkish vessel’s fire control radars.
Meanwhile, the Greek military was placed on alert, while Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis convened the government’s national security council after Turkey issued a Navtex, or international maritime safety message, Monday, announcing its vessel would be conducting seismic exploration in the area over the next few days.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry said naval vessels were escorting the Oruc Reis to “protect Turkish rights,” and tweeted images of the vessel flanked by five warships.
Last week, Turkey also announced it would be conducing a firing exercise Monday and Tuesday in a nearby area, southwest of the Turkish coast between Turkey and the Greek island of Rhodes.
“Greece will not accept any blackmail. It will defend its sovereignty and sovereign rights,” Greece’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We call on Turkey to immediately end its illegal actions that undermine peace and security in the region.”
The ministry said Navtex “combined with the observed broad mobilization of units of the Turkish Navy, constitutes a new serious escalation.” Turkey is acting in a way that is destabilizing and threatening peace, it added.
Greek Minister of State Giorgos Gerapetritis said the Oruc Reis was being monitored by the Greek navy.