UPDATED: Washington urges Turkey to halt drilling operations off the coast of Cyprus, Ankara reacts to EU warning
UPDATED: Turkey said on Wednesday it rejected Greek and European Union assertions that Turkish drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus was illegitimate, and said it showed the EU could not be an impartial mediator on the Cyprus problem.
The foreign ministry said Turkey’s Fatih ship had started drilling activities to the west of the Mediterranean island at the start of May and its Yavuz ship had recently arrived east of Cyprus and would also conduct drilling activities.
The Yavuz drillship dropped anchor on Monday to the south of Cyprus’ Karpasia peninsula, a jutting northeastern panhandle. It triggered a strong protest from Nicosia and a rebuke from the European Union.
In June, EU leaders warned Turkey to end drilling in waters around the island or face action from the bloc.
Earlier, the U.S. State Department on urged Turkish authorities to halt energy drilling operations off the Cypriot coast in the Mediterranean, a day after Cyprus protested a Turkish ship dropping anchor there.
“This provocative step raises tensions in the region. We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restraint and refrain from actions that increase tensions in the region,” a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said in a statement.
Turkey and the internationally recognised government of Cyprus have overlapping claims in that part of the Mediterranean, an area thought to be rich in natural gas.
Cyprus, a member of the European Union, has discovered natural gas in areas off the southern coast of the disputed island, though nothing has been extracted. Turkey contests the rights of Cyprus to explore for gas, sending its own drilling ships to stake claims around the island.