TURKEY accused Israel on Thursday of violating the airspace of Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus in a controversial oil and gas exploration area.
The Israeli aircraft “violated” the northern Cyprus’s airspace five times in Monday’s incident which saw Turkish fighter jets chase out the intruder, the army command said in a statement.
The airspace violations reportedly occured between 11:05 a.m. and 12:49 p. m., and lasted a total of eigth minutes.
It gave no other details about the incident nor the type of Israeli plane involved in the alleged incursion over the breakaway statelet, which is recognized only by Ankara.
Reports suggest that since Monday, extra air patrols from the Lefkoniko (Gecitkale) airbase are being conducted over the occupied areas. Lefkoniko is the main airfield of the Turkish Cypriot Security Force and is also used by Turkish Army Aviation.
Turkey’s relations with Israel have soured since Israeli commandos in 2010 stormed a Turkish ship carrying activists trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, killing nine Turks.
Today’s Zaman reported that two F-15 jets took off from Tel Aviv and flew through the airspace of both The Republic of Cyprus and Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus. The jets reportedly ignored warnings from officials of Turkish Cyprus.
In March the Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu said he convinced that Cyprus and Israel are discussing setting up an Israeli military base near Paphos, despite the fact that both sides deny reports on the issue.
Eroglu also said that Israel was now being used as a ‘tool’ in the ongoing Cyprus dispute and any moves to station military aircraft in Cyprus would only serve to exacerbate tensions in the region.
Rumours that Israel had requested use of the base have been circulating for several months, and the request is understood to have been discussed at a meeting between the Cypriot Minister of Defence and his Israeli counterpart.