Russia contacts Cyprus whenever it plans to conduct air or naval wargames, the government said Thursday, following reports that Turkey issued its own navigational warnings concerning two Russian navy exercises planned for later this month and which fall under the Republic’s Search and Rescue (SAR) area.
“The Republic of Cyprus has been briefed on everything [the Russian exercises],” government spokesman Kyriacos Kousios told media.
Asked whether Cyprus had any complaint from Russia’s conduct in terms of whom it notifies about exercises, the spokesman said:
“No. But we do have a complaint regarding Turkey’s attempt to exploit the situation.”
On Wednesday Turkish authorities issued two separate Navtex – notice to mariners – relating to two upcoming Russian navy exercises.
The first drill is to take place on September 8 and 22, south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo, but outside Greek territorial waters.
For this notice, Turkey’s Navtex advises ships in the area to exercise caution so as not to “interfere” with the operations of its research vessel, the Oruc Reis.
The second Russian wargames will be held on September 17 and 25, in waters southeast of Cyprus’ Cape Greco.
The Turkish Navtex advises mariners not to “interfere” with the operations of its other survey vessel, the Barbaros.
Both Russian exercises will take place inside Cyprus’ SAR.
Cyprus has since issued two counter-Navtex to Turkey’s notices, recalling that the areas in question fall under its responsibility.
Sources told the Cyprus Mail that for some time now Russia has been going through the Navarea III organisation whenever it plans to carry out maritime exercises in the eastern Mediterranean.
Headquartered in Spain, Navarea is responsible for maritime navigation coordination and safety in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
Once Russia notifies Navarea of an upcoming exercise, the country responsible for search and rescue in the area concerned, issues the corresponding Navtex as a matter of procedure.
Previously, it’s understood, the Russians had come to Cyprus directly to notify of naval exercises. But for a while now, Moscow has opted to go through the Navarea organisation first.
This in of itself does not circumvent Cyprus, the sources explained, because the outcome is the same – ultimately permission will come from Cyprus.
However, in an apparent bid to avoid getting embroiled in the political game between Cyprus and Turkey over maritime jurisdictions, the Russians have decided to go through Navarea instead.
When it comes to air exercises, however, Moscow continues to request permission directly from Nicosia as it has done so far.