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Turkish Drones in Occupied Cyprus Deepen Tensions in the Region

Turkish Drones
Two Bayraktar drones are currently stationed on the island of Cyprus. Credit: Ministry of Defence Ukraine, CC BY-4.0

An air base in northern Cyprus is currently hosting drones from Turkey, causing tensions to rise throughout the region. Cyprus, politically divided after the Turkish invasion of 1974, has felt that the Turkish government is reproducing its “expansionist agenda” by stationing drones across the country.

Turkey has also deployed considerable manpower in the eastern Mediterranean in the recent past to search for energy reserves.

Turkey has kept an intimidating presence in the occupied part of Cyprus ever since its invasion of the island. But the drones now enable Turkey to have attack capabilities at a moment’s notice — a possibility that has ramped up anxiety in the area.

An Egyptian official called the drones one of “Ankara’s provocative measures.” Another Egyptian diplomat, speaking to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity,  told reporters that “The base, along with other measures in Cyprus, Libya and the Mediterranean, would only further destabilize the region. It is alarming.”

“The latest (base) solidifies the notion that Turkey will not be deterred through statements, but it needs actions from relevant countries,” he added.

Turkey’s drones are part of long history of provocations in Cyprus

The drones were initially brought over to northern Cyprus in December 2019 as a response to energy prospecting by companies licensed by the Cypriot government. Turkey felt that this prospecting was an affront to its rights as well as those of Turkish Cypriots, and that they had a claim to the region’s hydrocarbon deposits.

Turkey then began to search extensively for hydrocarbons throughout the seas belonging to Cyprus and Greece. Turkey’s relentless exploratory drilling off the shores of Cyprus has caused widespread backlash from the EU, Greece, Cyprus, and the United States.

The pressure from the US and the EU was so immense, Turkey began to remove its vessels from the Mediterranean and cease its drilling activity in November of last year. Turkey was hoping to smooth things out with Greece and began talks with the nation, speaking directly for the first time in five years.

But in April, Turkey indicated that they would begin to explore the Mediterranean for various sources of energy again, according to statements made by Fatih Donmez, the country’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister:

“The (seismic vessel) Oruc Reis continues its seismic surveys off the coast of Antalya,” he stated, before going on to name two other vessels that Turkey has employed in oil and gas exploration in recent years.

President Erdogan announced this past July that Turkey would continue its oil and gas exploration operation in the Mediterranean Sea. “Whatever our rights are, we will take those one way or another. And we will carry out our oil exploration operations in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus, and all those seas,” said Erdogan in the province of Sakarya, addressing the disagreement over whether or not Turkey even has the right to occupy those waters.


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