Turkey sends first drone to north Cyprus amid energy row

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Turkey sent a surveillance and reconnaissance drone to the occupied north of Cyprus on Monday to bolster Ankara’s energy search in the region amid rising tension.

The Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone arrived at the airport in Lefkoniko after a five-hour flight from a Turkish airbase in Dalaman.

Turkish Daily Hurriyet said the drone is part of a small fleet which will “accompany the drilling vessels and naval forces of Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean and will now be taking off from Geçitkale (Lefkoniko) Airport”.

The arrival of the drone follows a decision of the Turkish Cypriot ruling coalition to accept Turkey’s request to allow Turkish Air forces to use the airport in Lefkoniko a base for armed and unarmed drones.

“In light of developments in the eastern Mediterranean region, and at the request of the Turkish Peace Forces Command, the Turkish Cypriot government is allowing for activities of unmanned aerial vehicles at Geçitkale (Lefkoniko) Airport to protect Turkey’s and Turkish Cyprus’ legitimate rights and interests,” said a statement.

 

It is understood the Turkish Cypriots designated Lefkoniko as a base for Turkish drones operating as support to Turkish drilling excursions for hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean.

But the Turkish government hasn’t yet provided any details about what the drones will be tasked to do.

Demirören News Agency reported that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), both unarmed and armed, will start to take off from Lefkoniko.

Turkish Cypriot “foreign affairs” minister Kudret Ozersay said that the drone in question is only passing through.

He said that ground control facilities are currently being installed at the military airport in Lefkoniko, but no UAV has been deployed yet. Ozersay noted that once works on facilities are completed, then drones will be stationed there.

In comments to CNN Turk on Sunday Ozersay said that ‘Greek Cypriot authorities have already bought eight such drones.

“While other actors in the region are carrying out their own drillings and surveys either with warships or other vessels, there is a need for gathering information, surveillance and intelligence work. In this context, we have also taken such a step in an effort to balance things out.”

As reported by HaberTurk the development did not come out of the blue as Turkey and Turkish Cypriot authorities have been in discussions over setting up a drone base in the north for some time now.

A team of specialists have already evaluated the airport’s facilities and found them to be up to NATO standards.

Meanwhile, the Cyprus government has condemned the designation of a base for Turkish drones, at an illegal airport in the Turkish occupied areas, arguing that this constitutes another destabilising action by Turkey in the region.

Government Spokesman Kyriacos Koushos told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) “this is yet another action by Turkey which only creates more tension in an already unstable region.”

He noted that the development does not contribute in any way to the potential of easing the already tense situation and is a proof that Turkey is not just intervening in the occupied areas of Cyprus, but it plays a determining role in the north.

Asked if Nicosia will denounce this development at international fora, the government spokesperson said “this is something that we will examine as this is a fresh development. The issue will be discussed with the Foreign Minister and decisions will be taken”.