Cyprus, Greece, look to EU if Turkey renews gas search

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus and Greece plan to consult with other European Union members on how to respond if Turkey tries again to drill for oil and gas inside waters that Cyprus claims as its exclusive economic zone, the Cypriot foreign minister said Thursday.

Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said earlier this week that the country’s newest drill ship, the Abdullhamid Han, would set sail Aug. 9 for a drilling operation “in the Mediterranean.” The exact location has not been announced.

“We have discussed some actions in the hope that they can avert the creation of such tensions in our exclusive economic zone,” Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said after talks with Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias.

Turkey, which doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a sovereign state, claims much of the ethnically split island’s offshore economic zone as its own. Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway north claim their waters overlap many of the 13 blocks off the country’s southern coast that make up the zone.

Kasoulides said Cypriot authorities believe there “more than six” potential areas where the Turkish drill ship could start work, and not all may be inside the area claimed by Cyprus.

The government of Cyprus has granted drilling and exploration rights in nine of the blocks to ExxonMobil and its partner Qatar Petroleum, Chevron and partners Dutch Shell and Israel NewMed, as well as a consortium made up of Italy’s Eni and France’s TotalEnergies

Turkey previously dispatched warship-escorted drill ships and survey vessels inside Cypriot-claimed waters. Similar excursions into waters claimed by Greece have ratcheted up military tensions. The EU has strongly condemned Turkey’s actions and imposed sanctions on two individuals involved in such drilling expeditions.

Cyprus split into ethnically Greek and ethnically Turkey sides in 1974, when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence. Although Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, only the southern, Greek Cypriot part enjoys full membership benefits.

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