N. Cyprus warns Israel against airspace violations

Turkish Cypriot leader calls Israeli ambassador over issue; Turkey warns oil majors against Cyprus gas bid.

IAF F15 fighter jet 311 (R) (photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
IAF F15 fighter jet 311 (R)
(photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
Northern Cyprus on Thursday warned Israel against violating its airspace, Anatolia news agency reported, just one day after Israel was accused of violating northern Cypriot airspace.
According to the report, Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu phoned Israel's ambassador to Cyprus over this issue, warning him against repeated offenses.
On Thursday, Turkey said it had scrambled two combat aircraft to intercept the Israeli plane. "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 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, posted on the Turkish general staff's website.
The IDF spokesman's unit said it would look into the reports, but had as of yet failed to confirm or deny them.
On Friday, Turkey said that companies bidding to develop Cyprus' offshore gas fields would be shut out of Turkish energy projects, amid a spat between the rivals about who has rights to potentially vast reserves in the east Mediterranean.
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 Cyprus.
Although Turkey has few oil and gas reserves of its own, the NATO member retains leverage because of its substantial navy and its role as an important transit hub for energy from Russia and the Caspian Sea region.
"Companies that cooperate with (Greek Cypriots) will not be included in future energy projects in Turkey," the Foreign Ministry said in an e-mailed statement.
"Turkish Cypriots have the same, indissoluble rights as Greek Cypriots to the natural resources of the island's continental shelf," it said. "Both communities must decide together how maritime natural gas and oil resources will be used."
French oil major Total, Malaysia's Petronas, Korea's Kogas, Eni of Italy, Russia's Novatek , Delek of Israel and Australia's Woodside Energy Holdings are among the 15 companies who have bid for contracts.
Cyprus, along with Israel and Lebanon, straddle what may be the biggest natural gas find of the past decade in the politically volatile eastern Mediterranean.
In January, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his Cypriot counterpart Demetris Eliades signed two agreements aimed at bolstering defense cooperation between the countries. The agreements were signed during Eliades’s visit to Tel Aviv.
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 facilities.
Israeli uses warplanes and pilotless drones, as well as naval craft, to patrol its natural gas fields.
Reuters contributed to this report.