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Cyprus

Claims of forthcoming Turkish provocations in EEZ ‘unfounded’ but FIR violations up

Allegations of an incident to be provoked by Turkey in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone in June are unfounded, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Thursday.

He was responding to Greek media reports, citing analysts from the Greek defence ministry, which claimed Turkey may attempt to cause tension in Cyprus in June.

According to the reports, Turkey’s aim will be to discourage further exploration by oil and gas companies in Cyprus’ exclusive economic area.

France’s Total has plans to conduct drilling in Cyprus’ plot 11 in the “second half” of the year.

Turkey tried to disrupt activity in Cyprus’ EEZ in 2014, when it despatched the Barbaros Hayredin Pasa, a research vessel, to the area, flanked by Turkish warships.

The Greek government’s analysts, cited in the reports, argued that the domestic situation in Turkey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s actions leading up to the April 16 constitutional referendum, the recent tension in the Aegean Sea, and public remarks by Turkish officials, point to an escalation of tension in Cyprus, too.

Nicosia is in constant contact with the Greek government, and “no such information exists, nor are such allegations confirmed”, Christodoulides said.

Meanwhile, a recent spike in violations of the Nicosia FIR by Turkish fighter jets are causing problems in Cyprus’ air-traffic control, according to Civil Aviation official Nicos Nicolaou.

Daily Phileleftheros reported on Thursday that five Turkish jets, flying in formation, entered the Nicosia FIR at Apostolos Andreas, the north-eastern tip of the island, on Wednesday morning.

Flying south, the jets traversed the length of the island some 30 miles north of its southern shores from Famagusta to Paphos, before returning to Turkey.

At the same time, Turkey and the breakaway regime in the north of Cyprus have issued a series of notices to airmen (Notams), informing all interested parties of a search and rescue drill last Wednesday, military and search and rescue exercises from March 6 to 21.

In all instances, the Republic of Cyprus responded with its own Notam, informing that the Turkish ones are illegal and calling on all flight captains in the area at these times to contact the legal air-control centre on Nicosia frequencies.

Nicolaou told Sigma TV that, while such FIR violations by Turkey are a usual occurrence, their pace has picked up in the last few days.

“This intensified activity in our FIR is causing problems and difficulties, resulting in safety and operational concerns in our air space,” he said.

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