Defence Minister Savvas Angelides on Monday played down reports that Turkish ships had forced an Israeli research vessel to leave Cypriot waters, telling CyBC radio that third parties were trying to create panic as characteristic of hybrid warfare.
And he appealed to the media to be careful in reproducing reports that may cause ‘harm to society’.
Israel’s Channel 13 reported on Saturday night that Turkish navy ships had intercepted an Israeli research ship in Cypriot waters two weeks ago and drove it away. Quoting senior Israeli officials, it said the ship Bat Galim, of the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research institution, was approached by Turkish vessels while conducting research.
The unnamed senior officials said the vessels radioed the Israeli ship, demanded to know its business in the area — and then ordered it leave. The Israeli ship had no choice but to comply and depart, it added.
Angelides said that on November 18 a Turkish navy ship had asked an Israeli research ship to leave the area, but clarified that this was not ‘a hot incident’.
The captain of the research ship which was operating at the instructions of Ben-Gurion University decided to continue the research elsewhere and informed the South Cyprus authorities, the minister added. He also confirmed that a Greek Cypriot scientist from the South Cyprus Geological Surveys Department was on board the ship.
Meanwhile, a Greek Cypriot government source told the Cyprus News Agency said that South Cyprus had no involvement in the decision of the captain of the Israeli ship leave the specific areas.
The sources said that the ship was in Cyprus’ EEZ on November 18 carrying out research and was warned by a Turkish ship that plots 4 and 5 of Cyprus’ EEZ were “within Turkish EEZ” and that he had to leave.
The captain contacted the Joint Search and Rescue Centre of South Cyprus which told him he could continue his research as he had permission from the Greek Cypriot authorities but the captain opted not to do so.
The ship continued its research elsewhere in Cyprus’ EEZ until the end of November.
The source told the Cyprus News Agency that the research does not concern Cyprus’ energy programme and there is, therefore, no reason for further action.
Meanwhile, Turkish news reports said that the ship had been asked to leave the ‘territorial waters’ of North Cyprus.