Second Turkish ship to start drilling off Cyprus

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A second Turkish ship will begin drilling for oil and gas in a disputed region off Cyprus next week, an official said, ramping up exploration despite mounting tensions with the European Union, which has deemed Ankara’s search “illegal.”

The discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has fueled a race to tap underwater resources and triggered a dispute between Turkey and EU member Cyprus, which also plans to ramp up its exploratory activities in the area.

Turkey, which on June 20 sent a second ship for exploratory activities off the eastern Mediterranean, says its actions abide by international law.

“God willing we will be starting the first drilling within a week,” Energy Minister Fatih Donmez was quoted as saying by the private NTV broadcaster.

The ship called Yavuz will be exploring off the peninsula of Karpasia, the minister added.

The EU last month warned against Turkey’s “illegal” drilling, raising the threat of sanctions unless Turkish officials abandon the project.

But Ankara insists that it is drilling inside its continental shelf.

Turkey’s first drilling vessel, Fatih, has already started searching for gas and oil in waters considered part of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone.

Cyprus has issued arrest warrants for Fatih’s crew members, accusing the ship of breaching the republic’s sovereign territory.

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