France today deployed two Rafale fighter jets to La Sude, Crete which were previously flown to Cyprus from August 10 to 12 for an exercise.
The move is seen as an attempt to check the military presence of Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean which is proceeding with hydrocarbons survey amidst a dispute with Greece.
At the naval level, the Tonnerre amphibious helicopter carrier (PHA), was joined last night by the frigate Lafayette , which set sail from Larnaca and carried out an exercise at sea with the Greek navy, the French MoD said in a release.
The purpose of this military presence is to affirm France's commitment to free movement, to the safety of maritime navigation in the Mediterranean and to (ensure) respect for international law, the release translated from French, said.
Earlier, two French Rafale jets and a C-130 cargo aircraft landed in the Andreas Papandreou airbase in Paphos as part of a defense cooperation agreement signed August 1, according to the Greek Cypriot daily Politis.
The jets will stay for a few days in Paphos, from which they will cooperate with French naval forces in the region and patrol the so-called exclusive economic zone that the Greek Cypriot administration declared unilaterally, Turkish media reported.
France and the Greek Cypriot administration plan to conduct an airborne military exercise in September, though other countries may also participate in the drill.
The Greek Cypriot administration and France hold activities in various fields, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean, and lead a partnership targeting Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Last month, after Athens objected to the activities of Turkey's seismic research vessel, the MTA Oruc Reis, in an area south of the island of Meis, or Kastellorizo, German diplomatic efforts helped defuse tensions between Turkey and Greece.
But Greece's controversial move last week to sign a maritime delimitation agreement with Egypt, which Turkey says violates its continental shelf and maritime rights, has further sparked tensions between the two neighbors.
Turkey also announced Monday that the Oruc Reis would continue to conduct research in the region until Aug. 23.