The Turkish Ministry of Defense shared a video on Thursday about the International Anatolian Phoenix Exercise-2023 currently being conducted in Konya with the participation of Azerbaijan, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), Spain, Qatar and Poland. Greek government officials had in previous years protested EU countries participating in this exercise.
Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south since an intervention by Turkey in 1974 in retaliation for a coup carried out by Greek nationalists. Turkish Cypriots declared independence in 1983. The KKTC is recognized only by Turkey, which has no diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union.
The International Anatolian Phoenix Exercise has been carried out at the 3rd Main Jet Base Command in Konya since 2009 in a realistic operational environment with the aim of developing survival and evasion procedures and increasing pilots and ground personnel’s experience in joint operations.
The drills have been held twice a year, one of which is an international event, since 2012. This year’s exercise, which started on June 5, will end on June 16.
In 2021 Slovakia, which had announced its participation in the exercise, in a last-minute decision withdrew due to the KKTC taking part.
Slovakia and the United States were to have sent ground personnel to participate in the drill in 2021. However, according to reports in the Turkish media, the US also decided against participating in the exercise. However, despite the withdrawal of the two countries, the pro-government press reported that Slovakia and the US had participated in the exercise.
According to the Greek Foreign Ministry, then-Slovak foreign minister IIvan Korčok informed his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias, about the withdrawal at an informal meeting of the European Union’s foreign ministers on May 26, 2021, emphasizing its commitment to international law and European solidarity.
Azerbaijan, Qatar and the KKTC, all close allies of Turkey, are regular participants in the exercise. EU member Poland participated last year. Spain is the second EU member together with Poland to take part in the exercise this year.
Military cooperation agreements between Turkey and Spain in 2021 also created controversy in Greece. Greece accused Turkey of not complying with international agreements and invited Spain to abide by the decisions of EU institutions regarding the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey recently cooperated with Spain in the production of the Anadolu, the largest ship in the Turkish Navy with a length of 231 meters, a width of 32 meters and displacement of 27,436 tons. It was designed by Spain’s Navantia and built at the Sedef Shipyard in Turkey.
Poland has now been participating in the Anatolian Phoenix exercise in Turkey for two consecutive years. The two countries have been in close cooperation in military areas in recent years. During Polish President Andrzej Sebastian Duda’s official visit to Turkey in May 2021, Turkey and Poland signed a deal for the sale of Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), making Poland the first NATO and European Union member country to procure Turkish drones.
Poland also purchased three ground stations and two simulators in addition to 24 military drones. One of the simulators will be deployed at the aviation academy in Deblin and the other to the UCAV base in Mirosławiec.
The agreement includes two-year technical support and training for 192 Polish officers who will serve as drone operators, commanders and instructors. All training sessions will take place entirely in Turkey in four groups at different times, taking 15 to 17 weeks for each group.
The first delivery took place in October 2022, and the drones’ first test flight took place in February. The second set was delivered on April 15. The total cost is estimated at approximately $270 million.
Turkey encourages the KKTC to participate in or send representation to international meetings and events it hosts. It is lobbying for recognition of the KKTC by Islamic countries and the Central Asian Turkic Republics.
In September 2022, speaking to the UN General Assembly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for recognition of the KKTC an independent state and urged the removal of sanctions and embargoes on the Turkish Cypriots.
In previous years Romania, Pakistan and the United Kingdom had participated together with the KKTC in the International Anatolian Phoenix Exercise, which has been held since 2009.