Turkey starts flying drones over East Med for drilling work

The Bayraktar TB2 drone landed in Gecitkale Airport in Famagusta. (File/AFP)
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Updated 18 December 2019

Turkey starts flying drones over East Med for drilling work

  • Aerial vehicles ‘could be used for military support reconnaissance’

ANKARA: Turkey began sending unmanned aerial vehicles to Cyprus on Sunday Dec. 15, tightening its control over the region to oversee gas exploration.

The drones will escort drilling vessels and naval forces in the eastern Mediterranean, with the move seen as a new attempt to expand drilling activities in the area.

Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus allows Turkey to launch drones from the recently completed Gecitkale air base, in the eastern coastal city of Magusa. 

“In light of developments in the eastern Mediterranean region, and at the request of the Turkish Cypriot Peace Forces Command, the Turkish Cypriot government is allowing for activities of unmanned aerial vehicles at Gecitkale Airport to protect Turkey’s and Turkish Cyprus’ legitimate rights and interests,” the prime minister’s office of the self-declared Turkish regime in northern Cyprus said in a statement.

Turkey has already dispatched one exploration and two drilling vessels. The country also recently signed a controversial deal with Libya to determine maritime borders and to pave the way for joint drilling activities in the zone, fueling tension with the EU as well as Greece, Cyprus and Egypt.

Dr. Zenonas Tziarras, a researcher at the PRIO Cyprus Center, said this new development had been expected following the completion of the base.

“The new air base and the deployment of drones is about the enhancement of Turkey’s power projection in the eastern Mediterranean, which Ankara promotes as a tit-for-tat move,” he told Arab News.

The new air base and the deployment of drones is about the enhancement of Turkey’s power projection in the Eastern Mediterranean, which Ankara promotes as a tit-for-tat move.

Dr. Zenonas Tziarras, Researcher

Tziarras added the move comes amidst broader geopolitical tensions in the eastern Mediterranean that stem from the Turkey-Libya deal on maritime zones, and further escalates the ongoing crisis between Turkey, Israel, Cyprus, Egypt, and Greece.

“The further militarization of the crisis, especially in the context of power projection and coercive diplomacy, be it with drones, air or naval forces, can only have negative results,” Tziarras said.

Israel recently claimed that Turkish navy ships intercepted an Israeli research vessel sailing off the Cypriot coast conducting research in coordination with Cyprus two weeks ago.

For some, Turkey’s tactic in using northern Cyprus as a springboard for its drones has allowed it to observe Greek, Egyptian and Israeli drilling activities, while others claim that the drones could be used in Libya for military support reconnaissance.

Turkey began its fourth round of drilling in the eastern Mediterranean on Nov. 23, which is believed to have rich hydrocarbon reserves.

But its naval presence in waters off the south of Cyprus with its own drilling vessels has been harshly criticized by Brussels, which warned of possible sanctions against Turkish companies involved in these drilling activities.


Iran says coronavirus deaths top 11,000

Updated 26 min 38 sec ago

Iran says coronavirus deaths top 11,000

  • Official figures have shown a rising trajectory in fatalities and new confirmed cases in recent months
  • The country is struggling to contain the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of COVID-19

TEHRAN: Iran’s death toll from the novel coronavirus passed 11,000 on Thursday, the health ministry said, as the country struggles to contain the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of COVID-19.
Official figures have shown a rising trajectory in fatalities and new confirmed cases in recent months, after Iran reported a near-two month low in daily recorded infections in early May.
“In the past 24 hours, we lost 148 of our compatriots due to infection with COVID-19,” health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state TV.
That brings Iran’s overall death toll to 11,106, she added.
She also raised the country’s coronavirus caseload to 232,863, with 2,652 new confirmed cases in the past day.
“Unfortunately, the number of hospitalizations is increasing in most of the country’s provinces,” Lari said.
The resurging overall numbers have seen some previously largely unscathed provinces classified as “red” — the highest level on Iran’s color-coded risk scale — with authorities allowed to reimpose restrictive measures if required.
They include Bushehr, Hormozgan, Kermanshah, Khuzestan, Khorasan Razavi, Kurdistan, and West and East Azerbaijan, all located along Iran’s borders.