By Safvan Allahverdi
The Pentagon on Thursday denied the allegations that the U.S. naval forces were deployed to the eastern Mediterranean to provide protection for one of the largest American petro company's drilling operations.
"There is no truth to the allegation that the U.S. 6th Fleet is in the Eastern Mediterranean to protect ExxonMobil," Johnny Michael, Spokesperson for United States European Command (EUCOM) said in a written statement sent to Anadolu Agency.
"The Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are currently conducting a regularly scheduled deployment to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations."
The allegations came following the Russian news outlet, Sputnik claimed that surveyor ships which belong to ExxonMobile, coincides with the arrival of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) which entered the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations on February 21.
Michael said the USS Iwo Jima and units from the 26th MEU arrived in Israel, March 6 to participate in the exercise Juniper Cobra, which is a part of a long-standing agreement between EUCOM and the Israeli Defense Forces. The agreement is to hold bi-lateral training exercises on a regular basis to promote and sustain regional stability as well as to ensure Israel's qualitative military edge.
Also mentioning the alleged ship, the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill, he noted that the ship and the embarked Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) entered the Black Sea March 7, 2018 to participate in the Romanian-led amphibious exercise to strengthen combined naval capability among the U.S. allies and partners in the region.
Speaking anonymously due to restrictions on talking to media, another official from the Pentagon also denied the allegations saying that the deployment of the ships took place as a part of a regular scheduled deployment.
When asked about the duty term of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group in the region, the official said duty term is around seven months. The presence and the tasks of the fleet, after the exercise with Israel ends, depend on the regional commanders.