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.


Trump gives dramatic account of Soleimani’s last minutes before death: CNN

Updated 21 min 52 sec ago

Trump gives dramatic account of Soleimani’s last minutes before death: CNN

  • The president spoke at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, at a Republican event
  • CNN said it obtained an audio recording of Trump’s remarks

PALM BEACH, Florida: US President Donald Trump gave a minute-to-minute account of the US drone strikes that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in remarks to a Republican fund-raising dinner on Friday night, according to audio obtained by CNN.
With his typical dramatic flourish, Trump recounted the scene as he monitored the strikes from the White House Situation Room when Soleimani was killed.
The president spoke in a ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, at a Republican event that raised $10 million for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign and for the Republican National Committee.
Reporters were not allowed in for the event. CNN said it obtained an audio recording of Trump’s remarks. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Jan. 3 killing of Soleimani at Baghdad airport prompted Iran to retaliate with missile strikes against US forces in Iraq days later and almost triggered a broad war between the two countries.
“They’re together sir,” Trump said military officials told him. “Sir, they have two minutes and 11 seconds. No emotion. ‘Two minutes and 11 seconds to live, sir. They’re in the car, they’re in an armored vehicle. Sir, they have approximately one minute to live, sir. Thirty seconds. Ten, 9, 8 ...’ “
“Then all of a sudden, boom,” he said. “’They’re gone, sir. Cutting off.’“
“I said, where is this guy?” Trump continued. “That was the last I heard from him.”
It was the most detailed account that Trump has given of the drone strike, which has drawn criticism from some US lawmakers because neither the president nor his advisers have provided public information to back up their statements that Soleimani presented an “imminent” threat to Americans in the region.
CNN said that in the audio, Trump did not repeat that Soleimani was an imminent threat. Trump said Soleimani was “saying bad things about our country” before the strike, which led to his decision to authorize his killing.