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Report: Turkish planes fly from northern Cyprus to escort exploration ships

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The Turkish Northern Cyprus Council of Ministers has designated an airport on the island of Cyprus, divided as Turkish Air Force base, as a march accompanying oil and gas exploration ships in the eastern Mediterranean, in a move likely to increase tension with the European Union, a news agency said.

Demir Oran News Agency, a private agency, said that drones, some of them armed, will start taking off from Gchiktale Airport from December 16.

She added that efforts to find a base for these planes took some time and that a team of experts from Ankara considered the airport, also known as Lefkoniko, a suitable option.

Cyprus is a member of the European Union, divided since a Turkish invasion in 1974, which occurred in response to a short coup, at the Greek request. It has been in dispute with Turkey for years over ownership of fossil fuels in the eastern Mediterranean that are believed to be rich in natural gas.

Turkey has started prospecting for oil and gas off the coast of Cyprus this year, and has sent two drilling and exploration ships with escort planes for surveillance and protection. The European Union believes that these activities are illegal and prepared sanctions against Turkey in response.

Ankara says that some areas in which Cyprus operates either on the Turkish continental shelf or in parts of northern Cyprus have the right to own any exploration there.

“The protection of Turkish Cypriot rights and interests is the first priority,” Demir Oran news agency quoted Northern Cyprus Prime Minister Arsen Tatar as saying.

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