Italian, Turkish fishing boats involved in skirmish off Cyprus

Turkish and Italian fishermen on Tuesday were involved in a skirmish near the divided island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, AgenceFrance-Press reported, citing the Italian navy.

People on board an unspecified number of Turkish vessels threw stones and smoke bombs at Italian vessels in waters north of the island, the agency said.

One of Italian boats was slightly damaged when a Turkish vessel came into contact with it, according to the Italian navy.

What prompted the skirmish was not immediately clear, AFP said, noting that an Italian naval vessel patrolling nearby as part of NATO's Sea Guardian operation had launched a helicopter as a Turkish coastguard patrol boat also intervened.

The Italian navy said they had "engaged the Turkish boats to induce them to stop" and restored control of the situation.

Last month, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a “dictator.”

Erdoğan responded by labelling the remarks as "totally indecent and vulgar" while Turkey's foreign ministry summoned the Italian ambassador in Ankara over the incident.