Turkey rejects EU claims that drilling off Cyprus is illegitimate


Turkey’s foreign ministry said it rejected statements by Greek and European Union officials that Turkish drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus was illegitimate.

The ministry said on Wednesday the EU could not be an impartial mediator on the Cyprus dispute, and that Turkey’s Fatih ship had started drilling activities off the Mediterranean island at the start of May.

Its Yavuz ship had recently arrived to the east of Cyprus and would conduct drilling activities.

On Tuesday, the US State Department urged Turkish authorities to halt drilling operations, a day after Cyprus protested the Yavuz dropping anchor there.

“The United States remains deeply concerned by Turkey’s repeated attempts to conduct drilling operations in the waters off Cyprus,” the State Department said in a statement.

“We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restraint and refrain from actions that increase tensions in the region,” it said.

The discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has set off a race to tap underwater resources, sparking a dispute between Turkey and European Union member Cyprus.

Second ship deployed

Ankara’s Fatih vessel entered Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone in the west and has started drilling, while the Yavuz has been deployed to search for oil and gas in the east.

The EU said Monday the latest move by Turkey was an “unacceptable escalation”, having warned Ankara to stop its “illegal” activities or face sanctions.

Cyprus is divided between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and a breakaway state set up after the 1974 Turkish occupation, following a coup sponsored by the military government then ruling Greece.

Turkey insists that its actions abide by international law as it is in the territorial waters of the Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus.

Earlier this month, Cyprus said it has launched legal proceedings against three firms that it accuses of supporting illegal Turkish oil and gas exploration in its waters.

It also issued arrest warrants for Fatih’s crew, accusing the ship of breaching the republic’s sovereign territory.

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