Turkey asks Israel to explain airspace 'violation': report

AFP , Thursday 17 May 2012

In latest diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel, Turkey tells Israel off over 'violation' of its airspace by crossing into the northern part of Cyprus and demands an 'explanation'

Turkey has sought an explanation from Israel in protest over an Israeli "violation" of the airspace of the Turkish northern part of Cyprus, the Anatolia news agency reported on Thursday.

Turkey's diplomats telephoned the charge d'affaires at the Israeli embassy in Ankara, Yosef Levi-Sfari, and demanded an explanation, Anatolia said, citing diplomatic sources.

Contacted by AFP, Turkish foreign ministry officials said Ankara "has taken the necessary initiative on the issue," without elaborating further.

The Israeli aircraft violated the airspace of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus five times in Monday's incident which saw Turkish fighter jets chase out the Israeli plane, the Turkish army command said in a statement.

It gave no other details about the incident nor the type of Israeli plane involved in the alleged incursion over the breakaway Turkish Cypriot statelet, which is recognised only by Ankara.

Israel and the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus, led by Greek Cypriots, have both discovered huge offshore natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea and have tentatively discussed cooperation on delivering gas to European and Asian markets.

The drilling for gas and oil in the seabed off Cyprus which began last year angered Turkey, which says it abuses the northern Turk Cypriots' rights to the same resources.

In April, Turkey launched its own exploratory drilling in the seabed offshore the TRNC in the north, drawing a sharp response from the government of Cyprus, which labelled the action as illegal.

Turkey's relations with Israel have soured since Israeli commandos in 2010 stormed a Turkish ship carrying activists trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza, killing nine Turks.

Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and lowered diplomatic relations with the Jewish state to a second secretary level.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied the northern third in response to a Greek-inspired coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece.

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