Turkey says Israeli plane violates N.Cyprus airspace (REUTERS) By Daren Butler ISTANBUL, TURKEY 05/17/12 10:29am EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Turkey said on Thursday it had scrambled military jets to
intercept an Israeli plane that violated northern Cypriot airspace
this week, and demanded an explanation for the incursion.
An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the accusation.
But the incident marked a fresh source of tension between the former
Relations between Turkey and Israel fell apart after Israeli
commandos raided the Mavi Marmara aid vessel in May 2010 to enforce a
naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and killed nine Turks in clashes
with pro-Palestinian activists.
Monday´s reported air incursion coincided with tensions on the
Mediterranean island of Cyprus over oil and gas exploration plans
there, which could hinder U.N.-backed efforts to reunite the island.
"A plane belonging to Israel, the model of which could not be
identified, violated KKTC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus)
airspace (above its territorial waters) five times," the Turkish
military said in a statement posted on its website.
"In response to this situation, our 2XF-16 plane based at Incirlik
was scrambled and our planes carried out patrol flights in KKTC
airspace, preventing the said plane from continuing to violate KKTC
airspace," said the statement.
Turkey´s foreign ministry said it had contacted Israel´s mission in
Ankara, seeking an explanation for the incursion.
In Jerusalem, an Israeli military spokeswoman said she was checking
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when the Turkish military invaded
the island after a short-lived Greek Cypriot coup engineered by the
military junta then in power in Athens.
Turkey still keeps about 30,000 troops in the north and is the only
nation that recognizes the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern
ENERGY EXPLORATION TENSIONS
The internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government reported an
offshore natural gas discovery in December but its attempt to exploit
the reserves has been challenged by Turkey.
Ankara has in turn given approval for Turkey´s state-run oil firm to
carry out oil and gas exploration in six offshore areas around
northern Cyprus, drawing condemnation from the Greek Cypriot
government, which lays claim to the territory.
Israel has separately reported two major energy finds offshore in the
sea separating it from Cyprus.
Israel has worked to enhance ties with Cyprus and Greece as its
relations with Turkey have frayed.
The eastern Mediterranean has recently seen joint Israeli military
maneuvers with its partners, as well as long-distance training by
Israel´s air force for a possible strike against Iran´s nuclear
Israel uses warplanes and pilotless drones, as well as naval craft,
to patrol its offshore natural gas fields.
Turkey stirred fears of a possible confrontation at sea by saying
last year it would boost its naval patrols in the eastern
But a senior Israeli military officer told Reuters there had been no
discernible increase in Turkish naval operations in Israel´s economic
waters, which extend 187 km (117 miles) from its coast.
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Tulay
Karadeniz in Ankara; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Andrew
Heavens) (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 05/17/12)
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