Published: Sat, July 13, 2019

Turkey rejects claims it is drilling illegally for gas off Cyprus

Turkey rejects claims it is drilling illegally for gas off Cyprus

The foreign ministry said Turkey's Fatih ship had started drilling activities to the west of the Mediterranean island at the start of May and its Yavuz ship had recently arrived east of Cyprus and would also conduct drilling activities.

The EU is set to curb contacts and funding for Ankara in retaliation for what it calls Turkey's "illegal" drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus, Reuters reported, citing a draft statement.

Turkish Cyprus has announced that it will offer Greek Cyprus to jointly establish a committee that will deal with a dispute ongoing between the two countries over hydrocarbon drilling in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

"The drilling activities of our ship Yavuz are based on legal and legitimate grounds", the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that "We reject the statement made by Greek Foreign Ministry and European Union officials that deem our country's activities illegal".

The statement said the European Union has become an actor of the play of unlawfulness staged by the Greek Cypriot-Greek partnership against the rights of the Turkish Cypriots who are the co-owners of the island.

The Egyptian minister said the ministry has been following up with great concern the recent developments regarding Turkish plans to start exploratory drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus. Its determination to press ahead with drilling follows Nicosia's decision to take legal action, with arrest warrants issued for the crew of Fatih.

In a statement on Monday the EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, pledged the bloc would continue to stand by its most easterly member, describing the dispatch of the second drilling ship as an "unacceptable escalation".

In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus's annexation by Greece, Ankara intervened as a guarantor power.

Cyprus has argued that while Turkey occupies the northern part of the island, the waters off its coast remain its exclusively, with no connection to Turkey.

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