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Turkey to resume drilling for gas near Cyprus: vice president

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Turkey will resume drilling operations near the divided island of Cyprus next month, a top official said Wednesday, threatening to spark a new diplomatic row with the EU, Agence France-Presse reported.

The European Union came close to sanctioning Ankara in 2020 for pushing into contested east Mediterranean waters in search of fresh natural gas reserves.

Turkey had been drilling near waters claimed by its historic rival Greece and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) — recognized only by Ankara.

The 2020 crisis was smoothed over when Turkey pulled back a research vessel from the resource-rich region and halted its drilling operation near the island.

But Vice President Fuat Oktay said during a visit to the KKTC coinciding with the statelet’s national holiday that Turkey would resume drilling off the island next month.

“The hydrocarbon resources of the Mediterranean are not the toys of the Greek Cypriots,” NTV television quoted Oktay as saying.

“Our Abdulhamid Han drilling ship is planning to start its operations in the Mediterranean next month.”

Oktay’s comments come as tensions between Turkey and Greece are already soaring.

Greece accuses Turkey of staging hundreds of illegal military sorties over its chain of islands in the Aegean Sea.

Turkey accuses Greece of secretly setting up military bases on the islands in violation of international agreements.

Waters around the island of Cyprus — its southern two-thirds recognized by the international community — are being drilled by global energy majors and regional powers searching for ways to diversify their gas supplies away from Russia.

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