Cyprus plays down Israeli ship eviction from EEZ by Turkey

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Cyprus says it will not react in the way Turkey is anticipating over a possible flashpoint when a Turkish naval ship ushered an Israel research vessel out of the island’s EEZ.

The incident happened two weeks ago said the Jerusalem Post, citing Israel’s National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry.

According to reports, the incident took place in Cyprus’ EEZ, specifically in gas licence blocks 4 and 5.

Bat Galim, a vessel belonging to the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research, had researchers from Ben-Gurion University aboard, as well as a Cypriot geologist, who were doing research approved by Nicosia in Cyprus’ territorial waters.

Turkey does not have jurisdiction over the area of the Mediterranean Sea in which the researchers were working, but its navy demanded that Bat Galim move further south, said the Jerusalem Post.

Cyprus Defence Minister Savvas Angelides said on Monday that it would be wrong to react in a hasty manner, risking positive outcomes of recent actions taken by the government against Ankara.

“We are constantly witnessing actions of infringement. But to react in the way that Turkey wants us to will only destabilize the region, which I think would be a mistake.”

Nicosia said what happened did not constitute a “heated incident” of aggression.

The Cyprus News Agency quoted a government source saying Cyprus was not in any way involved in the decision by the captain of the Israeli vessel not to continue its underwater exploration in areas of the Cypriot EEZ also claimed by Turkey.

The same source said the incident with the Turkish ship and Israeli vessel occurred on November 18th.

According to the source, the Israeli vessel arrived in the Cypriot EEZ on November 18 to conduct underwater research within the EEZ with the permission of the Cypriot authorities.

Upon arrival, the vessel received a call from a Turkish navy vessel demanding to know its business in the area — despite not having jurisdiction there — and then ordered it leave.

Turkey’s media reported that the Israeli ship was expelled by the Turkish Navy from “Turkish Cypriot waters”.

Turkey does not recognise the Cyprus Republic or its internationally designated exclusive economic zone.

Ankara faces EU sanctions for violating Cyprus territorial waters by sending two of its drillships inside the island’s EEZ.

Jerusalem Post reported the Turkish foreign ministry summoned Israel’s ambassador to Ankara to warn him that Israeli plans to build an EastMed gas pipeline to Europe in cooperation with Greece, Italy and Cyprus, would require Turkey’s approval first.