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Egypt Warns Turkey against Escalation over Drilling Off Cyprus Coast

Egypt Warns Turkey against Escalation over Drilling Off Cyprus Coast

Tuesday, 9 July, 2019 - 18:30
Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz sets sail in Izmit Bay, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, off the port of Dilovasi, Turkey, June 20, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

Egypt warned on Tuesday Turkey against stoking tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over its attempt to drill for oil and gas in the waters off Cyprus.

A foreign ministry statement "stressed the importance of non-escalation and commitment to respecting and implementing international law."

The discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has set off a race to tap underwater resources, sparking a dispute between Turkey and EU member Cyprus.

Cairo expressed its concern over Turkey's "insistence to continue with unilateral measures that would increase tensions in the eastern Mediterranean region."

Ankara's Fatih vessel entered Cyprus' exclusive economic zone in the west in May and has started drilling, while a second ship -- the Yavuz -- was deployed last month to search for oil and gas in the east.

The European Union said Monday the latest move by Turkey was an "unacceptable escalation", having warned Ankara to stop its "illegal" activities or face sanctions.

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 recognized only by Turkey.

Cyprus has divided its EEZ off its southern coast into 13 blocks, or areas. Turkey says parts of three blocks off the island's west coast fall within its own continental shelf. Turkish Cypriots claim most of seven blocks in the east.

The Cypriot government says any potential gas proceeds will be shared equitably with Turkish Cypriots after a reunification deal is agreed upon and has created a fund into which all such revenues will flow.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Several peacemaking endeavors have failed and the discovery of offshore resources has increasingly complicated peace negotiations.

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