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Govt. denies Turkish navy forced Israeli research vessel working off Cyprus to leave (Updated)

File photo: Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz is escorted by Turkish Navy frigates in the eastern Mediterranean

A Turkish navy vessel ‘expelled’ an Israeli research vessel working off Cyprus, it emerged on Sunday, though the incident happened two weeks ago, the Jerusalem Post reported but  alter in the day, the government denied that any such incident had happened.

The Post reported that the incident had been confirmed by Israel’s National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry although the exact location of where the incident occurred was not provided.

Some Israeli news outlets referred to Cyprus’ territorial waters, which is different in distance to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), while other reports said it happened “close to Cyprus”. Cypriot public broadcaster Cybc said on Sunday it happened in Cyprus’ EEZ. Turkish reports called the area “Turkish Cypriot waters”

The Post said that Bat Galim, a vessel belonging to the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research, had researchers from Ben-Gurion University in the Negev aboard, as well as a Cypriot geologist, who were doing research approved by the Cyprus government.

“Turkey does not have jurisdiction over the area of the Mediterranean Sea in which the researchers were working, but its navy demanded that Bat Galim move further south, as first reported on Channel 13,” the Post said.

According to the Times of Israel, unnamed senior Israeli officials said the Turkish vessels radioed the Israeli ship, demanded to know its business in the area — despite not having jurisdiction there — and then ordered it leave. “The Israeli ship had no choice but to comply and depart,” the paper said.

Turkey’s Daily Sabah said the Turkish navy approached the vessel and requested the captain provide information about their activities. “The navy later demanded the vessel cease operations and leave Turkish Cypriot waters,” the paper said.

The Jerusalem Post also reported that the Turkish foreign ministry had summoned Israel’s top diplomat in Ankara earlier in the week to inform him that Israel’s plan to lay down a natural gas pipeline to Europe in that part of the Mediterranean Sea, in cooperation with Greece and Cyprus, would require Turkey’s approval, Channel 13 reported.

“The Turks are trying to establish themselves as the ones running the show [in the region], and that is very worrying,” an official told the TV channel.


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