Turkey dispatches surveillance drone to Cyprus amid tensions over gas exploration

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The first drone from Turkey landed on northern Cyprus.

Turkey has dispatched a surveillance and reconnaissance drone to the breakaway north of the ethnically divided island of Cyprus amid tensions over offshore oil and gas exploration, The Associated Press reported, citing the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Anadolu said the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone took off from an airbase in Dalaman, Turkey, and touched down Monday at the airport in Geçitkale — known as Lefkoniko in Greek — on Cyprus.

Kudret Özersay, foreign minister of the self-declared Turkish Cypriot state, told reporters Sunday that the Turkish deployment would be limited to unarmed drones as there was “no need” for armed ones.

Earlier, Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar said there was an “urgent need” to address the security concerns of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots in the eastern Mediterranean.

It’s unclear what the drones will be specifically tasked to do.

Cyprus Defense Minister Savvas Angelides called the move an “additional factor contributing to instability” in the region, hurting efforts aimed at reunifying the country.

Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state and asserts that 44 percent of the island nation’s exclusive economic zone are its own.

Part of the area that Turkey claims it has rights to are waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights and where companies including ExxonMobil, France’s Total and Italy’s Eni are licensed by the Cypriot government to jointly carry out drilling.

Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey occupied it following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the north, where it deploys more than 35,000 troops.

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