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Turkey sends drone to escort exploration ships in Mediterranean, tensions escalate

December 17, 2019 at 2:38 am

A Turkish drone yesterday landed in Turkey’s northern Cyprus as tensions with Greece escalate over Turkey’s deal with Libya that extended its claims to the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean.

Local media quoted a Turkish official as saying that the Bayraktar Tactical UAS drone had departed from the Dalaman base in Turkey’s Mugla, adding that it was on its first mission to escort energy exploration ships in the eastern Mediterranean.

The move came after the Turkish Cypriot cabinet decision on Friday to designate the island’s Gecitkale airport as a base for both unarmed and armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Read: Israel says Turkey intercepted, forced its ship out of Cyprus waters

The decision was reported to have come at the request of the Turkish government in light of the recent developments in the eastern Mediterranean. It aims at protecting the legitimate rights and interests of Turkey and Turkish Cyprus in the region.

Turkey began seeking oil and gas off the coast of Cyprus earlier this year, dispatching two drillships and an exploration vessel with UAVs escorting them for monitoring and protection. The European Union (EU), Greek Cyprus, Greece, US, Egypt and Israel have repeatedly condemned the activities, calling them the “illegal.”

Cyprus, an EU member, was divided in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. It has been arguing over the ownership of fossil fuels in the eastern Mediterranean for years with Turkey.