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Cyprus issues arrest warrants for Turkey drill ship crew

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ATHENS (Reuters) – Cyprus has issued arrest warrants for the crew of a Turkish drill ship anchored close to its coast for allegedly infringing territory over which the island has rights to explore for oil and gas, a foreign ministry official said on Thursday.

“We can confirm that warrants were issued. It’s a double digit number,” the Cypriot official said, declining further comment.

Turkey said on June 10 that reports of the arrest warrants — which had at that point not been confirmed by Nicosia — “crossed the line”.

The two countries have been at odds since the 1974 ethnic conflict that split the island between its Greek and Turkish Cypriot populations, and over recent natural gas finds in the seas surrounding Cyprus.

“No one should have any doubt that the necessary response will be given, in case of such an insolence,” a Turkish foreign ministry spokesperson said then.

A Turkish drill ship, the Fatih, has been anchored west of Cyprus since last month, and another drill vessel, the Yavuz, is scheduled to be deployed east of the island soon.

Both areas are claimed by the Greek Cypriot government as its exclusive economic zone, where it has commercial rights to explore for hydrocarbons. Turkey maintains an area west of Cyprus is its own continental shelf.

(Reporting By Michele Kambas; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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