Turkish Gas Vessel 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
General Staff denied news reports circulating Friday that Israel had
"harassed" Turkish gas exploration vessels with low-flying air-craft
Thursday night, Turkish Today's Zaman reported according to a general staff statement.
RELATED:Region Watch: Storm clouds over eastern MediterraneanTurks begin gas exploration, risk feud with Cyprus, Israel
The Turkish statement said that the reports "do not reflect the truth," Today's Zaman said.
to Turkish media reports, Low-flying Israeli warplanes and helicopters
"harassed" a Turkish ship exploring for natural gas reserves near Cyprus
on Thursday night.Today's Zaman
, citing accounts in Turkish
daily Vatan and Greek Cypriot daily Phileleftheros, reported that two
F-15 jets took off from Tel Aviv and flew through the airspace of both
Greek Cyprus and Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus. The jets reportedly
ignored warnings from officials of Turkish Cyprus.
According to the report, Turkey sent two F-16 jets to track the Israeli F-15s, which subsequently returned to Israel.
The report added that an Israeli military helicopter flew over the Turkish seismic research ship the Piri Reis
, exploring for gas off of Cyprus's southern coast.
Turkey said on Tuesday it was exploring for gas in an offshore zone
where Cyprus started drilling last week, a step that could escalate a
dispute over Mediterranean resources.
Israel is also drilling nearby, and the issue has emerged as a further
bone of contention between Turkey and the Jewish state. Long Israel's
rare Middle East ally, Ankara has downgraded ties in recent weeks over
Israel's refusal to apologize for a deadly raid last year on a Turkish
The question of who has the right to tap deposits in a region holding
the world's biggest natural gas find of the past decade has added
urgency to efforts to settle the conflict over Cyprus, divided since
1974 into Greek and Turkish enclaves.
The internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government says it has a
sovereign right to drill. Turkey, the only country to recognize a
separate Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island, says the
island's status must be resolved first.
In Nicosia, the island's divided capital, Greek Cypriot leader Demetris
Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu resumed peace talks
on Tuesday after a 10-day break for UN General Assembly
The two sides are racing to make progress on complex reunification
negotiations before a scheduled meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon at the end of October.
Last week, US-based Noble Energy started drilling offshore on behalf
of Cyprus in an area termed Block 12, south of the island. Turkey has
pledged to drill for gas on behalf of Turkish Cypriots unless the Greek
"If the Greek Cypriots agree to stop, we'll stop too. But if they insist
on proceeding, they know very well Turkey's attitude," Turkey's
minister for European Affairs, Egemen Bagis, said on Tuesday during a
visit to the island's north.
"We have to warn against Greek Cypriot provocation. The resources are
not going anywhere, so why are they being used to block [Cyprus
Cyprus has refused to back down. "The Republic of Cyprus cannot be held
hostage to illegal actions of Turkey, which continues to occupy (Cyprus)
and violates its territorial integrity and the human rights of both
Greek and Turkish Cypriots," said government spokesman Stefanos
"As an internationally recognized state, a member of the UN and the EU,
the Republic of Cyprus is exercising its sovereign rights."