NICOSIA — A scholar at the Washington, D.C-based American Enterprise Institute said Turkey's decision to put attack drones at an airbase on the occupied side of Cyprus likely means more territorial violations there and the region.
Michael Rubin, in an article in The National Interest, a conservative site, said Turkish drones on the island will threaten western alliances although Turkey belongs to NATO – which has refused to intervene over repeated violations of Greek airspace and waters by Turkish fighter jets and vessels.
“Turkey’s UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) actions are as dangerous to NATO as its use of the Russian S-400 defense system,” Rubin said, referring to Turkey acquiring a missile defense which undermines the alliance and could be used against Greece in a conflict.
Turkey has been transforming an unused military airport, Geçitkale, on the occupied side into an airbase explicitly for drones without saying what their use would be, the facility set to open ominously on July 20, the 47th anniversary of a Turkish invasion, CNN Turk reported.
Turkey has been using the Dalaman airbase in the southern part Turkey, the Muğla province to fly the drones, with Geçitkale serving as a temporary base for landings, that site also used to conduct surveillance for energy research vessels operating in Cypriot waters in defiance of soft European Union sanctions.
But since it has upgraded the airport, it has moved many of its attack drones onto the base, Rubin said.
“Kind words will not bring peace to the Eastern Mediterranean; the only strategy that will work in the region is to demonstrate to (President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan that Turkey has far more to lose from scrapping the status quo than it has to gain,” he said, the news site Ahval reported.
Turkey has threatened regional security by violating the waters of Cyprus, but also Greece and the exclusive economic zones of Israel, Egypt, Lebanon and Gaza, Rubin said all within reach of Turkey’s Bayraktar-TB2 drones, he said.
While the United States, which barred sales of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey over the acquisition of the S-400 system, still tries to be diplomatic in dealings, Rubin said that will backfire because it “convinces Erdoğan that the United States is weak and will bend to further aggression”, Rubin said.
The US should cease exporting any parts or technology that helps Turkey build the drones, he said in his analysis.
“Many Turkish drones include either technology reverse-engineered from American drones or imported American components. Congress must act to prevent the further sale or transfer of any American computer or military components to Turkey,” he said, with no sign that's going to happen at all.