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      Israel Denies Turkish Reports as 'Baseless'

      Israel denied reports that appeared in the Turkish media that claimed Israel is planning to deploy thousands of troops in Cyprus.
      By Rachel Hirshfeld
      First Publish: 5/22/2012, 2:18 PM

      Cypriot President Demetris Christofias
      Cypriot President Demetris Christofias
      Reuters

      Israel denied reports that appeared in the Turkish media on Monday that claimed that Israel is planning to deploy thousands of troops in Cyprus in efforts to protect oil and gas interests in the region.

      The report, which appeared in Turkey's Anatolia news agency and appeared doubtful to reporters, claimed that Israel planned to send approximately 20,000 troops to Greek Cyprus.

      "These allegations are baseless and have no connection with reality," the Israeli embassy in Ankara said, quoting a foreign ministry statement. "Israel has never deployed troops on foreign soil."

      On Friday, Turkey threatened repercussions against companies bidding for oil and gas drilling projects off Cyprus.

      The move prompted a sharp response from Cyprus, which condemned this "illegal and provocative attitude of Turkey, which seeks gunboat diplomacy to promote its expansionist designs in Cyprus."

      Turkey's warning came after the Cypriot government said 29 companies had made 15 bids for exploratory drilling in a second round of licensing to exploit offshore oil and gas deposits, AFP reported.

      Cypriot President Demetris Christofias has said the island's offshore oil and gas search would carry on regardless of the hostile reaction from Ankara, and that any finds will be used for the benefit of all Cypriots.

      Diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey became increasingly hostile in 2010, when Israeli naval commandos, seeking to protect Israel’s national security, boarded the Mavi Marmara flotilla, filled with pro-Palestinian activists seeking to infiltrate Israel’s borders. The incident resulted in the death of nine Turkish activists, including one US citizen.

      On Thursday the Turkish military accused Israel of violating the airspace of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is only recognized by Ankara.