Turkish Navy ships chased off an Israeli research ship sailing in near Cyprus, News 13's Barak Ravid quoted senior Israeli officials involved in the issue as saying.
According to Ravid's Saturday night report, the unusual incident occurred two weeks ago and involved Israel's "Bat Galim" research ship, which belongs to the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute, which is under the Energy Ministry.
The ship was conducting a task in Cyprus' economic waters at the time of the incident. At the time, it was carrying researchers from Ben Gurion University, together with a Cypriot geologist who was conducting joint research with them, with the approval of the Cyprus government. As it sailed in Cyprus' economic waters, Turkish Navy ships drew unusually close to the Israeli research ship.
According to senior Israeli officials, Turkish Navy officers turned to the captain of the Israeli research ship via the communication net and began interrogating him regarding his activities in the area, despite the fact that he was in an area of the Mediterranean which Turkey has no authority over.
The Israeli officials said that after discussion, the Turkish Navy ships demanded the Israeli research ship immediately leave the area and not continue its research. The Israeli ship was forced to cease its activities and sail to another area.
Over the past year, Turkey has sent military ships, as well as drilling ships, to search for crude oil in Cyprus' economic waters, claiming the area is theirs. Recently, tensions ave risen between Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus regarding gas fields discovered in the eastern Mediterranean.
Several weeks ago, tensions rose again as Turkey signed a controversial agreement with Libya regarding an agreement on the borders of the economic waters between them in the Mediterranean. This agreement ignores the Cyprus' existence and the economic rights of both Cyprus and Greece in the Mediterranean, and transfers a large portion of these rights to Turkey.
This agreement may influence Israel due to Israel's plan to run a gas pipe through the area to Italy, via the economic waters of both Cyprus and Greece. This pipeline would allow Israel to export natural gas to Europe.
Senior Israeli officials told Ravid that the Israeli Consul in Ankara, Turkey, was called earlier this week for a meeting with senior Turkish officials, and was issued a warning following Turkey's agreement with Libya. In the warning, Turkey said that any steps Israel takes regarding the gas pipeline to Europe must receive prior approval from Turkey, since the pipeline will pass through Turkey's economic waters.
The Israeli officials also told Ravid that Turkey's latest moves regarding the gas fields have challenged Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, and Israel. "The Turks are trying to show that they're in charge, and that's a very worrying thing," one senior Israeli official told him."