Drones in North Cyprus reinforce Turkish drilling claims

The first drones from Turkey landed at Geçitkale Airport, just outside the coastal city of Mağusa, in the early hours of Monday, 16 Dec. The move comes as Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots assert their right to carry out energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.

A statement issued by TRNC Prime Minister Ersin Tatar said that his government had approved Turkey’s use of Geçitkale Airport for unmanned aerial vehicle flights, which include both armed and unarmed drones.

“In light of developments in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and at the request of the Turkish Cypriot Peace Forces Command, the TRNC government is allowing for activities of unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] at Geçitkale Airport to protect Turkey’s and the TRNC’s legitimate rights and interests,” the statement said..

Temperatures have been rising throughout the year, as Greek Cypriots refuse to entertain Turkish Cypriot demands that both sides work together to explore gas found off the coast of Cyprus. Instead, Greek Cyprus has forged ahead with maritime agreements signed by Greece, Egypt, and Israel, which deliberately exclude Turkey and North Cyprus. The agreements set out the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of these four states in the Eastern Mediterranean as they launched their own exploration efforts.

Ankara has made its displeasure felt by increasing its activities in the Mediterranean, and sending its own drilling vessels to explore for hydrocarbons. Last month, Turkey signed a new maritime deal of its own with Libya’s embattled government of Tripoli, sending a clear message to other actors in the region that the gas game will not be played without Ankara’s consent.