Turkey announced on Monday that it will conduct large-scale naval exercises in the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea between February 25 and March 7.
The announcement came from the Turkish Ministry of Defense, which said that Turkish Naval Forces will launch the exercise dubbed “Blue Homeland 2021.”
The Turkish Army and the Air Force will also participate in the drill.
More than 80 ships to take part
According to the announcement, the purpose of the exercise is to evaluate the preparedness of the headquarters, units and ships affiliated with the Naval Forces Command.
A total of 82 ships, 5 maritime patrol aircraft, 12 naval helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Amphibious Marine Corps troops will participate.
In addition, general purpose and attack helicopters from the Land Forces Command, and F-16, F-4 and HIK (Airborne Warning and Control) aircraft from the Air Force Command, will also take part.
Vessel Cesme continues research in the Aegean
Meanwhile, the Turkish research vessel Cesme was on Monday sailing in international waters in the sea area between Limnos and Agios Efstratios.
Sources in the Turkish Defense Ministry said on Sunday that the ship had begun conducting “hydrographic research” in the northern Aegean Sea, and will continue until March 2.
The activity of the Cesme was being monitored by a Greek Coast Guard vessel.
Greece protested to Turkey last week over Turkey’s plan for the survey.
Officials in Ankara said recently that the surveys by the vessel Cesme will be restricted to the surface of the sea, as the vessel will not lay its cables on the seabed.
The Cesme carried out hydrographic surveys in the same area in 2018 under the close monitoring of Hellenic Navy ships.
Turkey’s military activity in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean comes at a time when Athens and Ankara are supposedly organizing the next round of exploratory contacts.
Talks are expected to take place in Athens sometime in March. Greece has sent an invitation to Turkish officials, but, to this date there has been no official confirmation of the date.
Greece has clearly stated that it is coming to the 62nd round of exploratory contacts with confidence, in good faith, a spirit of cooperation, a constructive climate.
It has stated it hopes that the talks will lead to de-escalation and that the Turkish side will come in a similar spirit.
Related: Are Greece-Turkey Talks Doomed to Fail?
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