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Report: Turkish Coast Guard Fires Warning Shots Inside Cypriot Waters

sahil guvenlik
FIle image courtesy Sahil Guvenlik

Published Jul 18, 2021 5:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

Authorities in Cyprus have accused the Turkish coast guard of firing warning shots at a Cypriot coast guard vessel at a position inside of Cyprus' territorial seas.

A spokesman for the Cyprus police forces told Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that at about 0330 hours Saturday, the Cypriot vessel's crew detected a Turkish coast guard vessel about 11 nm off Kato Pyrgos, a Greek Cypriot fishing port located next to the border with Turkish Cyprus (Northern Cyprus). The Cypriot boat made for Kato Pyrgos, and when it was a distance of four nm from the port, the Turkish coast guard boat fired warning shots, the spokesman said. The Turkish boat then left the scene and headed for waters off Turkish Cyprus.

Cypriot Defense Minister Charalampos Petrides said that Cyprus will consider legal action against Turkey in connection with the incident. He asserted that Turkey must abide by UNCLOS and that Cyprus considers the incident an "unlawful provocation."

UNCLOS' provision for innocent passage protects the right of foreign government vessels to pass through the territorial waters of coastal states, but the section requires that they must not engage in military activity.

Turkish Cyprus has denied that the interaction occured.

"There is no such incident. It did not happen. This is a lie," a spokesman for the foreign minister of Turkish Cyprus said, speaking to Euronews.

Cyprus is split between two administrations - the Republic of Cyprus (commonly known as Cyprus), aligned with Greece, and the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, aligned with Turkey. The Cypriot government in Nicosia lays claim to the entire island, its territorial seas and its EEZ, and it is recognized by the international community as the legitimate government of the island.

Both sides claim the right to develop the region's promising subsea natural gas resources. Turkey has sent exploration vessels and drillships into waters claimed by Greek Cyprus, and the Turkish navy has actively interfered with drilling operations licensed by the Cypriot government.