The Israel Defense Forces and the Turkish General Staff have both 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.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said it was unfamiliar with the incident. Likewise, a written statement posted on the Turkish General Staff's website on Friday said that the reports did not reflect the truth, Turkey's Zaman Daily reported.
On Friday, Turkey’s Vatan daily quoted a story from the Greek Cypriot daily Phileleftheros, which reported that Israel boosted its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean on Thursday night. The report said two IAF F-15 jets flew through Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot airspaces. The Israeli planes reportedly ignored warnings from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ air traffic controllers, and flew so close to Turkey's Mediterranean coasts that they could be seen from Mersin's beaches, the report said. Turkey reportedly sent two F-16 jets to the area to track the Israeli jets, which then returned to Israel.
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According to Vatan, an Israeli military helicopter also flew over the Turkish re search ship Piri Reis on Thursday night while 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.
Meanwhile, tensions between Turkey and Greek Cyprus are rapidly increasing over gas exploration off the divided island's coast.
Cyprus' President Dimitris Christofias said exploratory drilling for offshore oil and gas deposits would continue despite Turkey's strong opposition. He said the divided island's right to search for potential mineral deposits inside its exclusive economic zone was not negotiable, and that any foreign meddling was unacceptable.
Cyprus was split into an internationally recognized Greek south and a breakaway Turkish north in 1974, when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
Turkey says the south's gas search disregards Turkish Cypriot rights and has sent its own warship-escorted research vessel to look for gas off Cyprus.
Christofias repeated on Saturday that the island's natural resources belonged to all Cypriots.
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