According to the United Nations, which rejects the Turkish claim, the Greek dominated Republic of Cyprus is recognized as the one and only sovereign authority over Cyprus. Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) maintains an army of around 5,000 personnel, but they are dwarfed by a much bigger contingent of close to 30,000 mainland Turkish troops, stationed in Cyprus. The presence of Turkish military is against the resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and is regarded as an illegal occupying force by the UN.
In 2010, it was found out that the Levant Basin (a part of which lies within the territorial boundaries of the Republic of Cyprus and TRNC) contains huge deposits of natural gas and significant reserves of crude oil. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the basin is abundant with 122 tcf of natural gas and 4 billion barrels of crude oil. As per reliable sources the Turks started their drilling on April 26, within the territorial/maritime boundary of the TRNC. The Republic of Cyprus has also started drilling in areas controlled by them, inviting condemnation from the Turkish side.
This February, Israel, one of the major military powers in the region, signed a defence deal with the Republic of Cyprus. This can be a major game changer, as prior to this deal, the Cypriot National Guard with its 12,000 strong personnel was considered weaker in both equipment and strength as compared to the Turkish forces stationed north of the Line of control. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is planning to deploy a squadron of General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon aircrafts in Cyprus as early as this year. If this plan is implemented, the Turks will lose their strategic military advantage, as earlier the Republic of Cyprus was unable to counter the presence of the Turkish F-16 squadron based in TRNC, with their limited equipment.
The deployment of F-16s in Cyprus is a part of the elaborate defence plan compiled by the IDF and IAF to protect off shore natural gas-oil deposits and supply routes in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Although the main focus of the programme is the Lebanese Shiite group Hizbollah, the possibility of counter-action against “other hostile forces” are not ruled out.
Republic of Greece held a joint military exercise from March 25 to April 5, which was attended by troops from both Israel and the US. Greece came in as a replacement for Turkey, which withdrew from the drills in 2010. A number of military drills were carried out in and around Cyprus and the protection of off shore facilities were given the major priority.