Ankara seeks to improve relations with Athens, defense minister says

Published 06.03.2019 00:32

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said yesterday that Ankara is making efforts to improve its bilateral relations with Greece to a better level with confidence-building measures.

"Within the framework of good neighborly relations, we are showing efforts to develop bilateral relations with Greece to a much better level. I am working with my counterpart to improve relations through discussions and meetings," Akar told Anadolu Agency (AA) during the drill Blue Homeland 2019, Turkey's largest naval exercise thus far.

The defense minister added that the military exercise was extremely successful and its results were satisfactory. "Turkey had the opportunity to show the power of its naval forces to itself and all the followers of the drill," he said.

Coordinated by the Naval War Center Command in line with NATO rules and regulations, Blue Homeland 2019 is a joint military drill conducted with the attendance over 100 vessels on all three seas surrounding the country, the Black Sea, the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The flotilla includes 13 frigates, six corvettes, 16 assault boats, seven submarines, seven mine hunting vessels and 14 patrol boats, as well as other navy vessels.

The drill comes at a time of tensions with regional countries over territorial waters. Turkey and Greece are at odds over rights in the Aegean Sea separating the two countries, although Athens and Ankara have sought to defuse tensions.

Turkey is also concerned by the Greek Cypriot attempts to drill in the Mediterranean Sea for natural gas and oil. Ankara argues that the Greek Cypriot side of the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus is not entitled to unilaterally exploit resources in an area where Turkish Cypriots also have rights.

Akar emphasized that Turkey will continue to protect its rights, nation and interests in the Aegean Sea, in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Black Sea. Turkey's top military command, including Akara, witnessed the drill from the Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft.

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