Greece has decided to buy American and Israeli armed drones after Turkey started deploying its own pilotless aircraft to an airbase in Cyprus to protect its drilling vessels in the east Mediterranean, the Times reported on Wednesday.
Athens is buying three U.S. drones and two more from Israel, Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told parliament late Tuesday.
“Rules of engagement have already been charted by [our] country’s armed forces . . . to confront potential threats to our sovereignty . . . including [action] to immobilise Turkish drones,” he said.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a breakaway state only recognised by Turkey, announced on Saturday that Turkish drones would be deployed at its airbase in Geçitkale.
Ankara’s move came after it signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.N.-recognised Libyan government in Tripoli over maritime boundaries. The deal makes the two countries maritime neighbours, ignoring the territorial waters of Greek islands including Crete.
Turkey’s drones started arriving in north Cyprus early this week. Ankara says the armed and unarmed drones of the Turkish military will beef up surveillance and protection of Turkish ships that are surveying the eastern Mediterranean for natural resources.
Turkey, an emerging drone power, has been using the pilotless aircrafts in its military offensive in north Syria as well as in operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey and north Iraq. Ankara has also been supplying killer drones to the government in Tripoli, which has been fighting against Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army for control of the country.
Cyprus was divided after Turkey in 1974 invaded the island in response to a coup d’etat backed by Greece’s nationalist government. Turkey still maintains some 35,000 troops in the island’s breakaway north, and says that it will not remove its soldiers until a tangible agreement to reunite the island is reached.