ANKARA (Reuters) – A second Turkish drillship will begin drilling for oil and natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean within a week, Turkey’s energy minister said, in a move which that could strain ties with Cyprus over jurisdiction rights for exploration.
Last month, European Union leaders warned Turkey to end its gas drilling in disputed waters or face action from the bloc, after Greece and Cyprus pressed other EU states to speak out.
Turkey already has a ship off Cyprus and Cyprus issued arrest warrants for its crew in June.
The second drilling ship, Yavuz, is currently at the port of Mersin doing final tests and taking on supplies, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez was quoted as saying by Turkish state news agency Anadolu.
Ankara, which does not have diplomatic relations with Cyprus, claims that certain areas in Cyprus’s offshore maritime zone, known as an EEZ, fall under the jurisdiction of Turkey or of Turkish Cypriots, who have their own breakaway state in the north of the island which is recognised only by Turkey.
“God willing, within a week Yavuz will begin drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, in Carpasia (peninsula), in the area where we have got a licence from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” said Donmez.
Cyprus was divided in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Several peacemaking efforts have failed and the discovery of offshore resources has complicated the negotiations.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; editing by Jason Neely)