Nicosia Denies Turkish Ships Forced Israeli Vessel Out of Cypriot Waters



File photo: Turkish ships accompany a research vessel off Cyprus

The Cypriot government denied on Sunday reports in the Israeli press that Turkish navy ships intercepted an Israeli research ship in Cypriot waters two weeks ago and drove it away.

A government spokesman told Cypriot daily Phileleftheros that no such incident took place.

Earlier, Jerusalem Post and Channel 13 quoted Israeli officials saying that the ship Bat Galim, of the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institution, was approached by Turkish vessels while conducting research in coordination with Cypriot officials and the Cypriot government.

The unnamed senior officials said the vessels radioed the Israeli ship, demanded to know its business in the area — despite not having jurisdiction there — and then ordered it leave. The Israeli ship had no choice but to comply and depart.

Turkey has recently taken steps to increase its influence in the eastern Mediterranean. It signed a maritime border agreement with Libya in November that has fueled regional tensions with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil and gas drilling rights in the region.

The three countries, which lie between Turkey and Libya, blasted the maritime border accord, saying it was inconsistent with international law. Greece has expelled the Libyan ambassador over the pact.