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Group: Turkish drones in Cyprus endanger commercial flights

Flight safety organization warns ethnically divided Turkish drone base in Cyprus could increase security risks for thousands of commercial flights crossing airspace around eastern Mediterranean island

NICOSIA, Cyprus – A Turkish drone base in the separatist ethnically divided north of Cyprus could increase security risks for thousands of commercial flights crossing the airspace around the island in the eastern Mediterranean, warned on Tuesday a flight safety group.

FSF-Med, an NGO affiliated with the International Flight Safety Foundation based in Washington, DC, said the planned modernization of Turkey’s Gecitkale air base – called Lefkoniko in Greek – could exacerbate a communication and communication problem. coordination between aviation authorities in Turkey and Cyprus. which has already compromised flight safety for years.

An intelligence report obtained by the Associated Press suggests that the base at Gecitkale will be expanded to accommodate both armed and unarmed Bayraktar TV2 drones, surveillance aircraft, training aircraft and forward fighter jets.

Cyprus was divided into a separatist Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

The Turkish Cypriots declared an independent state almost a decade later, but only Turkey recognizes it. Although Turkish Cypriots say they control air traffic in the airspace of the northern half of Cyprus, aviation authorities, including the International Civil Aviation Organization, do not acknowledge it.

Despite this, Turkish and Turkish Cypriot air traffic control authorities do not communicate with the internationally recognized ATC of the island of Nicosia in the south and often give conflicting instructions for passing civilian planes, which has resulted in numerous near misses between passenger planes in the past that the PA discovered. in 2011.

The danger is heightened as Turkish military planes do not share their flight plans with Cypriot government authorities and could fly in close proximity to civilian planes.

The International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations (IFALPA) cited a recent study by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) according to which the potential consequences of such contradictory instructions for civil aircraft “could be detrimental. to flight safety for planes’ operating in the region. The same study identified 166 “incidents” that occurred inside the airspace controlled by Nicosia ATC in 2019, without specifying the exact nature of the incidents. The same study indicated that between 2016-18, there were 276, 260 and 254 “incidents” respectively.

FSF-MED said it will pressure international and European aviation safety bodies to voice concerns about the additional risks posed by the drone base and ask them to force Turkey to comply with the rules. international aviation safety standards.

“The FSF-MED will also stress that in the event of an accident, the responsibility will not only lie with Turkey, which is breaking international rules, but also on those who could have forced the country to stop its violations but did not have it. not done, “he added. said the organization.


ABC News