A Turkish coastguard vessel on Friday fired warning shots at a Cyprus police boat. The boat was on patrol for undocumented migrants, said Cypriot media.
The incident came amid high tensions on the island as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepares to visit the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north next week to mark the anniversary of Turkey’s 1974 invasion.
The Cypriot vessel spotted the Turkish coastguard some 11 nautical miles from the small fishing port of Kato Pyrgos, just west of the UN-patrolled armistice line separating government-held territory from the breakaway north, the Cyprus News Agency reported.
Christos Andreou, spokesman for Cyprus police told CNA that coastguard cutter was inside Cyprus’ territorial waters. The incident took place at 0030 GMT, he said.
He further said that the boat was on regular patrol to check irregular migrants. The area is a dropping-off point for migrants coming from Turkey.
“The patrol boat’s three-member crew seeing the intentions of the Turkish coastguard tried to avoid any incident and headed toward the fishing shelter at Kato Pyrgos,” he said.
“At a distance of four nautical miles from the shelter, the marine police boat received warning shots from the Turkish coastguard.
“Then, being a short distance from the shores, the Turkish coastguard left for the occupied territories” (of northern Cyprus), he said.
Tensions are high ahead of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the island next week. Greek Cypriots see this tour as provocative one. Erdogan will visit abandoned beach resort of Varosha, which was emptied of its Greek Cypriot residents by the Turkish invasion.
Cyprus police have stepped up both land and sea patrols since the government declared a “state of emergency” in May following an influx of Syrian migrants that has flooded its reception centres.
(With inouts from agencies)