Tuesday, November 9, 2021

French Frigate Bristling with Missiles Deployed to Mediterranean Amid Turkey Tensions - FARS

(FNA)- France deployed its Auvergne frigate to Cyprus, sending a message to Ankara that Paris remains committed to its Cypriot and Greek partners in the ongoing maritime exclusive economic area (EEZ) dispute.

“This deployment underlines how important France considers this part of the Mediterranean Sea,” Paul Merveilleux de Vignaux, the vessel’s captain, told reporters, RIA Novosti reported.

The 6,000 tonne Auvergne has complement of 145 officers and seamen, and is decked out with a bristling array of advanced sensors and weapons systems, including a passive electronically-scanned array radar, two sonars, a 76-mm naval gun, dozens of air defence and cruise missiles, anti-ship missiles and torpedoes. The frigate also carries a lone NH90 multirole helicopter.

De Vignaux said the Auvergne would be stationed in the region from now until January, and would collect intelligence to “show how the respect of international law and especially freedom of navigation matters” to Paris, while emphasizing the country’s “willingness to contribute to the stabilization of this strategic area”.

The Cyprus deployment is the twelfth for the Auvergne, with de Vignaux characterizing the Eastern Mediterranean island, which has been under partial Turkish occupation since 1974, as the “centerpiece” of support to “efficient and sustainable naval operations” by France.

The Auvergne’s deployment comes on the heels of fresh tensions between Nicosia and Ankara amid Turkish warnings demanding that Greece and Cyprus not make any attempts to send research ships to the “Turkish continental shelf”, and Greek and Cypriot condemnation of “illegal” Turkish activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. Athens and Nicosia dispute Ankara’s “continental shelf” delineation, pointing out that the claims run into areas close to the island’s Northern coast, and even jut into Cypriot waters to the West of the island some 250 km from Turkey’s coast.

The French Warship’s visit also comes ahead of US Vice President Kamala Harris’s trip to Paris as US and French leaders continue to mend ties damaged by the secrecy-laden signature of a new tripartite defense pact between America, Britain and Australia in September which robbed France of a $65 billion submarine contract with Canberra. During her visit, Harris is expected to speak to French President Emmanuel Macron, and other leaders gathered in the French capital to discuss the crisis in Libya.

France and Cyprus maintain warm defence ties, and French energy giant Total has teamed up with Italy’s Eni to conduct offshore drilling in waters off the island’s South coast next year. Paris has regularly deployed its warships, including the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, to the region, and Nicosia allows the French Air Force and Navy to use its airbase and port facilities.

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