Turkey claimed medical aid it sent arrived in Gaza on Thursday even as it prevented Chinese medical aid from arriving in Cyprus. Ankara forced a plane to divert to Moscow for refueling after refusing to allow it to fly over Turkey’s airspace, according to a report in Anadolu and Russia’s TASS.
Turkey tried to slow down the shipment of 36 tons of medical items to Cyprus from China. Yiannis Karousos, Cyprus’s minister of transport, communications and works, said the flight did not proceed smoothly because Turkish authorities did not allow the plane to fly through Turkish airspace.
Meanwhile, Ankara has ordered medical aid to be sent to “Palestine,” according to articles in the far-right pro-government Turkish press. This refers to aid that Anadolu claimed arrived in Gaza. However, the actual story about the arrival of the aid was apparently taken down by Anadolu, leading to questions about the overall story or how the aid arrived. Turkey’s regime is one of the most anti-Israel regimes in the world and also opposes Egypt’s leadership. Israel and Egypt both border Gaza. An Islamic Turkish humanitarian organization sought to sail to Gaza 2010 aboard the Mavi Marmara, leading to an Israeli raid and worsening Israel-Turkey relations. Turkey has led efforts against US President Donald Trump’s peace plan and Turkey hosts Hamas members. Hamas controls Gaza.
In recent years Turkey’s regime has become more aggressive, seeking to challenge Cyprus and Greece in the Mediterranean, ostensibly over claims to gas drilling rights. In November, Turkey and the embattled government of Tripoli in Libya signed a deal for Turkish energy rights that seeks to block Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel from working together. Israel and the Greeks signed a deal in January for a pipeline that will run across Turkey’s new Libya claims. Turkey, to challenge the emerging alliance of Israel-Greece-Cyprus and the overall interests of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, sent mercenaries to Libya as part of its gas deal. The mercenaries, recruited from poor Syrians, are fighting the Libyan National Army, which is backed by Egypt, the UAE, Russia and France.
Turkey has also sought to harass Cyprus by basking its new drones in northern Cyprus. Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus is one of several areas Turkey has now occupied, including Afrin in Syria, where Turkey seeks to extend or entrench its role. Turkey has also use Syrian refugees against Greece, encouraging them to cross the border illegally. The blocking of the aid to Cyprus comes in this context of a regional struggle for the Mediterranean and Turkey’s willingness to use extrajudicial unilateral actions to impose its will in the Middle East.