Turkey lands military drone in Cyprus’ occupied north
Amid growing tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean over drilling rights off the coast of Cyprus, a Turkish military drone landed in the occupied part of Cyprus on December 16 after the internationally unrecognised Turkey-backed breakaway government of “Northern Cyprus” approved the use of Famagusta Airport as a base for both unarmed and armed unmanned aerial vehicles.
Tolga Atakan, the transport minister of the secessionist government said the Turkish drones were a countermeasure to the acquisition of Israeli drones by Cyprus in October and was done to “protect the legitimate rights and interests of the TRNC (the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) and Turkey,” TRNC representatives said.
Turkey has tried to force its energy interests in the oil and gas industry off Cyprus’ coast. For Ankara, the drilling and oil exploration by the government of Cyprus takes place in either on its own continental shelf or in zones where Turkish Cypriots have equal rights over any findings with Greek Cypriots.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the northern part of the island in response to a coup sponsored by the Greek military junta. Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has claimed that 44% of the island’s exclusive economic zone belongs to the secessionist north, however, the internationally recognised government of Cyprus insists, as a member of the EU, that its jurisdiction is over the whole island.
Greece, a NATO member and a close ally of Cyprus, has accused Turkey of violating international law.
In the last month alone, Turkey and Libya signed an agreement on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea, which claimed a vast swathe of Greece’s internationally recognised territorial waters.
“The maritime zones of Turkey and Libya are not connected and there is no sea or land corridor between the two”, said Stelios Petsas, Greece’s government’s spokesman.