The Turkish General Staff has denied news reports that a Turkish seismic research ship exploring gas near Cyprus was harassed by two low-flying Israeli warplanes and a helicopter on Thursday night.
A written statement posted on the General Staff’s website on Friday said that the reports do not reflect the truth.
Turkish Vatan daily published a story on Friday referring to a story by the Greek Cypriot daily Phileleftheros, which argued that Israel boosted its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean as of Thursday night.The report said the two F-15 jets that took off from Tel Aviv flew through the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot airspaces. The jets reportedly ignored warnings from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) officials and got so close to Turkey’s Mediterranean coasts that they could be even seen from Mersin’s beaches, the report said. Turkey then reportedly sent two F-16 jets to the area to track the Israeli jets, which then returned to Israel.
An Israeli military helicopter also flew over the Turkish research ship, Piri Reis, on Thursday night, according to the daily, as it was in the Aphrodite gas field, off Cyprus’ southern coast and adjacent to the larger Leviathan field. The helicopter flew low over the ship for a long time, the report said.
Greek Cyprus has signed agreements to delineate undersea borders in the eastern Mediterranean with Israel, Lebanon and Egypt. A US company licensed by the Greek Cypriot government to drill for gas in the south of Cyprus, Noble Energy, operates with its Israeli partner, Delek.
In December 2010, Noble Energy announced that a gas reserve of 16 trillion cubic feet had been discovered off the coast of Israel, estimated to be worth more than $95 billion. Noble Energy owns nearly 40 percent of the prospective discovery in the Israeli section, alongside Israeli partners Delek Group Ltd. units Avner Oil and Gas LP and Delek Drilling LP, with 22.67 percent each.
In response, Turkey signed an oil and gas exploration deal with the Turkish Cypriots and sent a Turkish research ship to the Mediterranean to start exploration. Turkey opposes exploration of gas in the eastern Mediterranean, saying it has rights in the region as the biggest coastal state and that the Turkish Cypriots, who run a state that is not internationally recognized in the north of the island, should also be involved.
Cyprus is divided into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north. The southern administration began exploratory drilling for oil and gas last week, prompting strong protests from Turkey, which does not recognize the Greek Cypriot administration.
30 September 2011, Friday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM,