Another ship will join drilling activities off Cyprus this month: Turkish minister

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Turkey's first drilling vessel, Fatih, starts conducting its first deep drilling in offshore Antalya on the county's southern Mediterranean coast, Turkey on October 30, 2018. AFP PHOTOS

Two Turkish drill ships are continuing operations in the eastern Mediterranean and another ship will join them this month, Energy Minister Fatih Sönmez said, according to Reuters, as a dispute over natural resources there fuels tensions between Turkey and Cyprus.

EU member Cyprus and Turkey have argued for years regarding the ownership of fossil fuels in the eastern Mediterranean, where Ankara says Turkish Cypriots are entitled to a share of the resources.

Turkey rejects agreements the internationally recognized Cypriot government has reached with other Mediterranean states on maritime economic zones.

Turkey has sent two drilling ships, Fatih and Yavuz, as well as an exploration vessel, to operate in waters off the divided island of Cyprus, prompting accusations from Greece that it is undermining security in the region.

Aboard the Yavuz drill ship, off the northeastern coast of Cyprus, Dönmez told reporters that a second exploration vessel would begin work in the area by the end of August. A Turkish frigate and patrol boat accompanied the Yavuz.

“Fatih is continuing to drill in the Finike-1 borehole in the areas licensed to Turkey. Yavuz is continuing its operations in the Karpaz-1 borehole,” he said in comments made on Tuesday but embargoed until Wednesday.

“The Oruç Reis seismic exploration ship will join this work as of the end of August,” he said.

Turkey’s operations in the region have drawn a reaction from its Western allies, including the European Union and the United States.

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 in the eastern Mediterranean has complicated the negotiations.

On Friday Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı will discuss a way out of an impasse in peace talks, which have been stalled for two years.

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