GR US

Turkey Looks to Place Naval Base on Occupied Cyprus

Αssociated Press

FILE- In this photo taken on Tuesday Nov. 5, 2019, a U.N peacekeepers walk inside the U.N buffer zone that divides the Greek Cypriot south and the Turkish Cypriot north, in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA - Adding to growing fears of a military conflict, Turkey may establish a naval base on the northern third of Cyprus it has occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion, with Turkish ships already drilling for energy off the coast.

A group of Turkish military analysts is looking for a location, the pro-government Milliyet daily newspaper reported, for the base after using Gecitkale Airport as a base for Turkey's unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) operating in Eastern Mediterranean.

The area said to be under consideration is around Famagusta, about 35-40 kilometers (21.8-24.9 miles) from Iskele Strait, the report said, with plans to build a military facility but not to store ammunition.

Turkey is protecting its energy ships operating in part of Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ|) with submarines, drones, armed drones and fighter jets, ignoring demands from the legitimate government, Greece and the United States to stop and soft European Union sanctions which haven't worked.

A naval base on the island is also expected to boost the rapid deployment force of the vessels and speed up their maintenance, repair and supply support while allowing long-term deployment of naval and air elements, the paper said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in September 2018 that Turkey might establish a naval base on the island if necessary and the move comes as tension rises over the drilling in the EEZ even though Turkey wants to join the European Union to which Cyprus belongs, but refusing to recognize the government and barring Cypriot ships and planes.