Turkish warships could be deployed in the Eastern Mediterranean as the row over gas and oil exploration escalates. The internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government has confirmed it is to start drilling off the divided island within days.
Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated his country’s opposition to exclusive economic zones agreed by Cyprus and Israel last year and said they will start drilling work.
“We are also currently taking this step with Northern Cyprus and it could start in a very short time, possibly this week. We will initiate these works in our exclusive economic region,” he explained.
Turkey, which backs the breakaway state in northern Cyprus and maintains a military presence there, says any natural resources found offshore belong to both communities.
An Israeli firm has an option to join US company Noble Energy which has been commissioned by Cyprus to start the drilling work. That could exacerbate already heightened tensions. Israel has so far refused to apologise for the killing of nine Turks last year aboard an aid ship.
The EU has stepped into the row on the back of the Turkish threat to send warships, urging both sides to show restraint.