Turkish Ship to Begin Drilling for Oil off Cyprus on Monday or Tuesday
The Turkish drillship Yavuz will begin drilling for oil and gas southwest of Cyprus on Monday or Tuesday, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said, in a move which has intensified tensions between the two countries.
"All preparations have been completed, and it (Yavuz) will start its first drilling in the area either today or tomorrow," he told an energy conference on Monday.
Ankara said on Thursday it had sent the ship to the area where Greek Cypriot authorities have already awarded hydrocarbon exploration rights to Italian and French companies.
Cyprus has accused Turkey of a "severe escalation" of violations of its sovereign rights.
Turkey has already drilled wells in waters to the east and west of the island, triggering strong protests from Nicosia and the European Union in recent months, including EU sanctions.
Turkey and Greece are allies in NATO but have long been at loggerheads over Cyprus, which has been ethnically split between Greek and Turkish Cypriots since 1974.
The internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government represents Cyprus in the European Union, while a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north is only recognized by Ankara.
Ankara says some of the areas where Cyprus is exploring are either on its own continental shelf or in zones where Turkish Cypriots have equal rights over any finds with Greek Cypriots.
The latest development is the first time the two sides have targeted the same area. The United States has warned Turkey not to engage in "illegal" drilling activity in the area.
“We’ve made clear that operations in international waters are governed by a set of rules. We’ve told the Turks that illegal drilling is unacceptable and we’ll continue to take diplomatic actions to ... ensure that lawful activity takes place,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a visit to Greece on Saturday.
On Monday, Yavuz was located about 50 nautical miles (90 km) southwest of Cyprus, Refinitiv Eikon shipping data showed.