Turkish Jets Land in Northern Cyprus in Riposte to Greece

Published November 23rd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Two Turkish warplanes touched down on Thursday in the breakaway Turkish state in the north of long-divided Cyprus in retaliation for the landings of Greek aircraft in Greek Cyprus last month, a military source in Nicosia said. 

The F-16 fighter jets landed at the airport of Gecitkale, or Lefkoniko, as part of three-day joint military exercises between Turkish and Turkish Cypriot forces, scheduled to end later on Thursday. 

The Turkish military gave the go-ahead to the landings, the first in two years, after Greek jets touched down at the Paphos airbase in internationally-recognized Greek Cyprus during wargames between Greek and Greek Cypriot troops in October. 

The two aircraft, along with four other Turkish F-16s, bombed "enemy" positions in drills earlier in the day, which were observed by Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu, Turkish land forces commander Hilmi Ozkok and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. 

The games also included maneuvers by warships and helicopters. 

The two F-16s that landed at Gecitkale airport and their munitions were on display Turkish Cypriots, while the remaining four returned to Turkey. 

Land and naval forces, including warships, also took part in the games, codenamed Taurus-2000, which are held each year to train troops for a possible attack from Greek Cyprus as well as search-and-rescue operations. 

The maneuvers raised tension on the island as Greek Cyprus dubbed them a "provocation" and warned that it would respond to any violations of its airspace by Turkish jets. 

The warning came after six Turkish aircraft flew over the north Tuesday, without crossing the UN-monitored Green Line dividing the island. 

Greek Cypriot radars locked for the first time on two Turkish RF-4 reconnaissance aircraft on October 22 when they flew inside Cyprus air space during the Greek and Greek Cypriot war games. 

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey occupied the northern third of the island in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia seeking to unite the country with Greece. 

International efforts to reunify the island have so far failed to bear fruit. 

UN envoy Alvaro De Soto is due to visit Cyprus in early December to prepare the ground for a sixth round of indirect talks between Denktash and Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides, scheduled to take place in Geneva in January. 

Denktash, meanwhile, was scheduled to arrive in Ankara, the only capital to recognize his Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Friday for talks with Turkish officials -- NICOSIA (AFP) 


© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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