Republic of Cyprus officials dismiss reports that say Turkish drones had interfered with flight paths of commercial airplanes taking off or landing at Paphos airport.
A story in daily Phileleftheros on Wednesday reported that Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) had been flying frequently in a delimited area ranging from Antalya to Paphos, and specifically over areas near the position of the Turkish drillship Fatih.
According to the head of Nicosia Area Control Centre, Haris Antoniades, there were two drones flying between 15 and 20 miles off Paphos but not on a daily basis.
It is not a question of a mid-air collision but the problem is based on lack of communication with the UAV’s or those who operate the drones
Transport Minister Vasiliki Anastassiadou told the Cyprus News Agency that she had been briefed on the matter by Civil Aviation officials, saying air traffic controllers had to put in an even greater effort to carry out their duties due to the presence of the drones.
The minister said Turkish drones flying within the international air space, off Paphos, were indeed a nuissance but the safety of commercial airplanes was never at risk.
Antoniades, who also spoke on local television, said there was never a question of a mid-air collision but the problem was based on lack of communication with the UAV’s or those who operated the drones.
“Anything that is outside the field of aviation procedures places a security burden on the FIR Nicosia,” he said, adding that staff were forced to instruct commercial planes to change course in order to avoid the drones.
The government is reportedly preparing to report the incident to Eurocontrol and other aviation agencies, while making it clear that the drones had not posed a threat to commercial aviation.
“It is a nuisance because they don’t communicate or cooperate with the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus as it is done with other civil aviation aircraft,” the minister said.
No direct contact
Following the events of summer 1974, Turkish Cypriots established the “Ercan Advisory Area” which is monitored by air traffic officials at the airport in north Nicosia.
But Ercan is not an internationally-recognized airport and does not have official contact with the south, while there is no direct contact between Ankara and Nicosia due to the political situation on the divided island.