Turkish Vessel to Search for Oil, Gas in Mediterranean

Posted September 22nd, 2011 at 3:27 pm (UTC-5)
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Turkey's energy minister says a Turkish ship will set sail for the Mediterranean to begin oil and gas exploration.

Taner Yildiz said Thursday the research vessel Piri Reis will head for the eastern Mediterranean Friday to explore in Turkish Cypriot waters.

Turkey's decision to dispatch the ship comes after Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots of breakaway Northern Cyprus signed a deal Wednesday to explore for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean. The European Union opposed the deal, which came in response to a similar move earlier this week by the internationally recognized Greek Cypriots.

Yildiz said Thursday he did not expect any tension in the Mediterranean in the short term.

In New York, Cyprus's president, Dimitris Christofias, told the United Nations General Assembly he is willing to share the benefits from the discovery of new energy sources with Turkish Cypriots.

Turkey is the only country in the world that recognizes the Turkish Cypriot north of the island, while the Greek Cypriot south is internationally recognized. Turkey's government does not recognize Cyprus.

The island has been divided since 1974 between the Turkish-controlled north and Greek Cypriot south.

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion triggered by a Greek-inspired coup. Ongoing reconciliation talks started in 2008 between the Turkish north and the Greek Cypriot south, but have failed to produce a settlement.

Also Thursday, Mr. Christofias denounced Turkish naval maneuvers off the southern coast of Cyprus, where a U.S. firm is carrying out exploratory drilling for oil and gas. Christofias told the General Assembly the maneuvers are “provocative” and a “real danger” for the region.

On Monday, Cypriot energy chief Solon Kassinis said the U.S. firm Noble Energy is drilling inside Cyprus' exclusive economic zone south of the island, close to Israeli waters. Cyprus commissioned Noble Energy for the project, which has been operating in the area off Israel's coast since 1998.