Turkish Ship Starts Gas Search Close to Greek Cypriot Zone

Posted September 27th, 2011 at 2:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Turkey says one of its ships has begun searching for oil and gas close to the same area where Greek Cypriots are exploring.

Turkish officials said Tuesday the research vessel Piri Reis started its search under military protection in the eastern Mediterranean.

Earlier, Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Irsen Kucuk said the ship had begun exploring, but he did not say exactly where.

The departure of the Piri Reis on Friday came after Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots of northern Cyprus signed a deal to explore for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean. The European Union opposed the deal, which came in response to a similar move by the internationally recognized Greek Cypriots.

On Tuesday, the U.N. envoy for Cyprus, Alexander Downer, urged restraint to avoid derailing the ongoing peace talks between the Turkish north and the Greek Cypriot south. He said the United Nations would consider mediating the oil and gas dispute if both sides request it.

Turkey is the only country in the world that recognizes the Turkish Cypriot north of the island. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 between the Turkish-controlled north and Greek Cypriot south.

The island 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.

Last week, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias denounced Turkish naval maneuvers off the coast of southern Cyprus. Mr. Christofias told the United Nations General Assembly the maneuvers are “provocative” and a “real danger” for the region.

Cyprus commissioned a U.S. firm to carry out exploratory drilling in its exclusive economic zone off the southern coast of the island.