Cyprus has accused the Turkish coastguard of firing warning shots at a Cypriot police vessel north of Tylliria as it was on patrol for illegal migrants.
The small Cyprus police vessel with three crew aboard was engaging in a routine patrol of the area along Kato Pyrgos Tylliria, just miles from the border between the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member-state, and Northern Cyprus, an internationally unrecognised territory occupied by the Turks following their invasion of the island in the 1970s. The area has seen migrant border crossings in recent weeks.
According to a report from the Greek newspaper I Kathimerini, the incident with the Turkish coastguard took place at around 3:30 a.m. early on Friday morning.
“While [the Cypriot vessel] was out about 11 nautical miles, it was approached by a Turkish coast guard vessel with aggressive intentions,” police spokesman Christos Andreou said.
“At one point, about 4 miles, the Turkish coast guard vessel fired warning shots towards the marine police vessel,” he added.
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Marios Pelekanos, a spokesman for the Cyprus government, slammed the behaviour of the Turkish vessel, saying: “There is no excuse for this behaviour by the Turkish vessel. Marine police were simply conducting a routine patrol.”
Demetris Samuel, the spokesman for the Cyprus Foreign Ministry, said his ministry had contacted UN peacekeeping forces over the incident to demand an investigation.
“It is premature to say whether the incident is related to the climate being created by Turkey in view of the illegal visit of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the occupied areas [Northern Cyprus],” Samuel said.
In recent weeks, the Tylliria region has seen several landings of illegal immigrants, with 21 migrants, mainly of Arab background, landing in late June and another 22 illegals landing in the same area just two weeks later.
Earlier this year in May, Cyprus declared a state of emergency due to the influx of illegal immigrants more broadly, mainly from the Syrian seaport of Tartus.
Interior Minister Nicos Nouris stated that, since January, the country had rejected 4,000 asylum applications.
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