A commercial airport in northern Cyprus will become the main base for Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) escorting ships engaged in the search for gas in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Turkish news agency Demiroren reports.
The UAVs, both unarmed and armed, will start to take off from Lefkoniko (Gecitkale) Airport as of 16 December, the news outlet said.
The development comes after Egypt, Cyprus and Greece urged Turkey to abandon gas drilling off north Cyprus after Ankara announced that it had sent its second drillship to an area where the Greek Cypriot authorities had already awarded exploration rights to European companies.
🔴#SONDURUM— İbrahim Haskoloğlu (@haskologlu) December 8, 2019
Doğu Akdeniz’de Türkiye’ye ait sondaj gemileri ve onları koruyan Türk Deniz Kuvvetleri’ne ait fırkateynler.
Drilling vessels belonging to Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean end Warships of the Turkish Navy.
— DHA pic.twitter.com/fYN14nMV7o
Nicosia claimed in a statement that Turkey continues "to blatantly violate international law" and disregards calls from the EU and the international community to cease its "illegal activities" in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is rejected by Ankara.
Turkey “ought to realise that the only way to deal with the problems she herself creates, is through an intensive and decisive dialogue that will lead us to a solution on the basis of the relevant UN Resolutions and the principles upon which the EU is founded. A solution that will, amongst others, address the challenges we currently face as a result of the unacceptable military occupation by Ankara”, the statement said.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has made it plain that Ankara will continue carrying out gas drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ despite the EU considering sanctions against Turkey.
Cyprus became divided in 1974, when Turkey invaded the island and proclaimed the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983. Negotiations concerning Cyprus reunion renewed in February 2014 after a two-year break. In November 2016, they broke up because of differences concerning territorial issues.