Turkey will begin drilling for oil and gas near Cyprus in the coming days, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday, a move that could stoke tensions with neighboring Cyprus and Greece, Reuters reported.
Turkey and the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government have overlapping claims of jurisdiction for offshore oil and gas research in the eastern Mediterranean, a region thought to be rich in natural gas, according to Reuters.
“In the coming days we will start drilling with two ships around Cyprus,” Çavuşoğlu was quoted as saying by the state-owned Anadolu news agency in a speech to a business conference in western Turkey’s Aydin province.
“Let those who come to the region from far away, and their companies, see that nothing can be done in that region without us. Nothing at all can be done in the Mediterranean without Turkey, we will not allow that,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Turkey launched its first drillship the Fatih in October to drill off the coast of Turkey’s southern Antalya province. It said a second ship that it purchased would operate in the Black Sea but was diverted to the Cyprus area.
Breakaway north Cyprus, which is supported by Turkey, says any offshore wealth also belongs to them, as partners in the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960.
The island was divided in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Countless peacemaking endeavors have failed, and offshore wealth has increasingly complicated peace negotiations, with Greek Cypriots saying the matter is not up for discussion.