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Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy in joint East Med drills

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In a show of military strength, Cyprus, Greece, France, and Italy have decided on a joint naval and aerial exercise in the eastern Mediterranean on Wednesday, the Cypriot Defence Ministry said.

The initiative, codenamed “Evnomia”, involving naval and aerial assets from the four EU countries, will take place in the maritime area, south of Cyprus, from August 26-28, the ministry said.

This manoeuvres will include a broad range of naval and aviation exercises as well as Search and Rescue drills.

“Tensions and efforts to destabilize the Eastern Mediterranean through ongoing and protracted conflicts presently taking place have reached a peak, also due to growing friction on various issues,” the Defence Ministry statement said.

Without mentioning Turkey, the ministry said there were repeated violations of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and of customary international law, “that are binding even for countries that are not signatories”.

The Defence Ministry said the Quadrilateral Initiative is “tangible proof of the shared understanding and dedication to law-based rules, as part of efforts to de-escalate tension through political means.”

It said four EU countries of the Mediterranean wish to “contribute in a reinforced, collective naval presence, based on mutual understanding, dialogue and cooperation”.

The Defence Ministry said, “only dialogue can lead to de-escalation in the region”.

It said the defence ministries of the four countries were involved in designing the “inaugural activity”.

“The initiative conveys the commitment of the four European countries to implementing UNCLOS and customary international law, maintaining stability and respect for law-based rules while guaranteeing the freedom of navigation in the Mediterranean.”

F-16 Greek fighter jets and French Rafale warplanes arrived at Andreas Papandreou airbase in Paphos on Tuesday to take part in military exercises off Cyprus.

Three French Rafale fighter jets and the same number of Greek F-16s are temporarily stationed at the base in Paphos, reports said.

France has already upped its presence in the East Med with the La Fayette frigate expected to take part in the joint military exercise.

A Defence Cooperation Agreement between Cyprus and France entered into force this month cementing closer cooperation in the fields of energy and maritime security.

Cyprus said it would work with France to procure and develop arms and jointly train military personnel as part of the agreement.