NICOSIA, Cyprus — Officials say joint French-Cypriot naval maneuvers off Cyprus aim to assist the east Mediterranean island nation fulfill its duties as a sovereign country.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly said in a tweet Saturday that the exercises would enable Cyprus to “assume its responsibilities in its sovereign waters.”

The maneuvers come as a Turkish drill ship, which is escorted by a warship, looks to drill inside waters where Cyprus has licensed French energy company Total and partner Eni to conduct gas drilling.

Turkey says it's acting to protect its interests and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the region's energy reserves.

Cyprus Defense Minister Savvas Angelides said the maneuvers send a message about his country “exercising its rights within its exclusive economic zone” as the government strives to counter Turkey’s actions through legal, political and diplomatic means.

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