Turkey has begun an annual military exercise amid rising tensions with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean region.

The Turkish Military began the exercise ‘Mediterranean Storm’ at Northern Cyprus, a disputed portion of the island of Cyprus and recognised only by Turkey as Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

According to Turkish channel TRT World, the five-day exercise is aimed to improve cooperation and interoperability between the Turkish Cypriot Peace Force Command and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Security Forces Command.

It will involve troops from the air, naval and land forces of Turkey, the channel further added citing a government statement.

Commenting on the exercise, Turkish Cypriot Security Command vice-president Fuat Oktay was quoted by Aljazeera as saying in Twitter: “The security priorities of our country and the TRNC are indispensable, along with diplomatic solutions in the eastern Mediterranean.”

This comes when the relations between Turkey and Greece have strained over oil and gas exploration in contested waters.

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Recently, Turkey has ramped up exploration programmes in the disputed waters fuelling tensions in the region. Last month, France deployed fighter jets and a naval frigate in the eastern Mediterranean region after tensions escalated.

The southern part of the Cyprus island is under an EU member state, officially called the Republic of Cyprus. The northern part is administered by TRNC.

Turkey has maintained thousands of troops in the northern part of the island since 1974.