print
memri
December 23, 2019 No.
8432

Turkey Deploys Armed Drones To Northern Cyprus

On December 15, 2019, it was reported that Turkey had deployed three shipping containers of armed and unarmed drones to the Geçitkale Airport in Northern Cyprus to protect Turkey's drillships and seismic research ships in the Eastern Mediterranean.[1] The same day, it was reported that the Israeli Air Force had circled a Turkish ship in the Eastern Mediterranean, likely in response to an incident two weeks prior in which the Turkish navy had driven the Israeli research ship Bat Galim from the area.[2] Over the past year, the government of Turkey has been expanding its efforts to drill for natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean (see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8372 Following Announcement Of EU Sanctions Over Turkish Drilling In Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey Doubles Down, November 19, 2019).

"Another Destabilizing Action By Turkey In The Region"

Ersin Tatar, prime minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, said that the Turkish drones deployed to Northern Cyprus were "important for protecting our rights and interests" and that Turkey had sent an "urgent" request for the use of Geçitkale Airport.  Southern Cyprus government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos said on December 14, when the airport was designated for use by the Turkish government for deploying drones, that "this is apparently another destabilizing action by Turkey in the region, which already faces stability problems."[3]


Turkey has deployed drones to the Geçitkale Airport in Northern Cyprus (source: Haberkibris.com).

President Erdoğan: "If Necessary, We Can Increase Their Number"

The first flight of a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone out of Geçitkale Airport was reported on December 16.[4] On December 18, Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos announced that "initiatives" for Greece to purchase three drones from the U.S. and two from Israel had begun.[5] On December 19, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said of the drones stationed in Northern Cyprus: "If necessary, we can increase their number."[6] Greece reportedly has no armed drones and four French-made unarmed drones.[7] As of June 2018 Turkey reportedly had 40 armed and unarmed drones.[8]

Tensions between Northern and Southern Cyprus continue over other issues. On December 22, Kudret Özersay, who is both deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Northern Cyprus, objected in an interview to reported efforts by Cypriot Greeks to keep tourists from traveling from Southern Cyprus to Northern Cyprus. He said: "If a tourist reaches the north [of Cyprus] through Larnaka Airport, why should this bother you? If you try to take advantage of this situation in order to damage my economy, I will do the same... The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus will cooperate with Turkey as much as it needs within the framework of possibilities."[9]

 

[1] The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey, was established in 1974 after the Greek Army took over the government of Cyprus and the Turkish military invaded Northern Cyprus in response.

[2] Jpost.com/Breaking-News/IAF-aircraft-circle-over-Turkish-ship-near-Cyprus-611008, December 15, 2019; Aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/turk-donanmasi-israil-arastirma-gemisini-dogu-akdenizden-cikardi-iddiasi/1674028, December 15, 2019.

[3] Cna.org.cy/webnews-en.aspx?a=5488dab0302941e4b3c0cbc54fe090eb, December 14, 2019.

[4] Cnnturk.com/turkiye/kktcden-kalkan-iha-dogu-akdenizdeki-ilk-gorev-ucusuna-basladi, December 16, 2019.

[5] Cnnturk.com/dunya/yunanistan-abd-ve-israilden-iha-alacak, December 18, 2019.

[6] Pio.mfa.gov.ct.tr/erdogan-gerekirse-ihalarin-sayisi-daha-da-artabilir, December 19, 2019.

[7] Efadrones.org/countries/Greece, accessed December 23, 2019.

[8] Yenisafak.com/ekonomi/turkiyenin-iha-ve-siha-sayisi-40i-gecti-3357869, June 13, 2018.

[9] Yeniakit.com.tr/haber/rumlari-acik-acik-uyardi-turkiye-ile-isbirligi-yapacagiz-973243.html, December 22, 2019.