Turkish newspaper Zaman reported Wednesday of an "important development" in the relations between Ankara and Jerusalem. According to the report, Israel has returned to Turkey a number of Heron drones after conducting maintenance work on them.
About two months ago Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of failing to meet its obligations in defense deals, adding to tensions with Israel which have escalated since an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla killed nine people last year.
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Erdogan accused the Jewish state of not returning drones that Turkey had bought from Israel and sent back for maintenance.
They are not loyal to agreements between us in the defense industry," Erdogan said. "There might be problems, you may not be speaking to each other, but you have to fulfill your responsibility under international agreements."
According to Wednesday's report in Zaman, the drones have been returned to Turkey. The report further claimed that after a long period in which Israeli technicians refrained from visiting Turkey for security reasons, Israel sent technicians employed by Aeronautics, the company which manufactures the drones, to work on drones at a Turkish army base.
In a conversation with Ynet, a Israeli security official confirmed that the drones had recently been returned to Turkey, but denied any delay in the shipment. "The company returned all of the drones on schedule," he said.
Turkey uses the drones to spy on Kurdish rebels, who maintain bases in northern Iraq, and have escalated their attacks on Turkish troops and police officers lately.
Meanwhile, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Wednesday Israeli and Cypriot energy exploration in the Mediterranean was illegal, agreement should first be reached with all relevant parties, and resources should be equally shared.
Turkey and Cyprus are in dispute over the energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean and Texas-based Noble Energy started drilling in September a Cypriot offshore block abutting another block controlled by Israel.
Turkey is the only government to recognize the breakaway northern Cyprus, run by a Turkish Cypriot administration, as a separate state, though it backs reunification talks.
Reuters contributed to the report
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