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Turkey to begin oil exploration amid Cyprus tensions

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-09-26

A Turkish oil exploration vessel has set off for northern Cyprus amid a dispute with Greek Cypriots over rights to hydrocarbon reserves off the divided Mediterranean island.

AFP - Turkey will start Monday to explore for gas and oil in the eastern Mediterranean following a move by Greek Cypriots to press ahead with offshore gas drilling, the Anatolia news agency reported.

"We expect the ship to arrive at noon to the region where exploration will start. The team will start seismological research in the afternoon, after it reaches the region whose (geographical) position was specified," said Huseyin Avni Benli, the head of the institute that owns the ship, Anatolia reported.

Benli did not elaborate on the ship's exact destination.

The ship Piri Reis, which embarked on its controversial mission last week, has so far encountered no problems in the Mediterranean, said Benli, of Dokuz Eylul University in the Aegean province of Izmir.

Benli said there was twice-daily communication by satellite telephone with the ship, which left Urla port near Izmir on Friday, Anatolia reported.

Regional tensions have been rising after the Cyprus government, recognised internationally but not by Turkey, made a deal with US energy firm Noble, which has already started exploratory drilling for gas off the southern coast of the divided island.

Turkey threatened to start its own undersea research with a naval escort and then signed an accord with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), a statelet only recognised by Ankara, to explore energy supplies in designated waters off the island.

Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece.

With the island now a member of the European Union, the Cyprus dispute is a major obstacle to Turkey realising its ambitions of joining the bloc.

Turkey has threatened to freeze its ties with the EU if Cyprus takes the rotating presidency of the bloc as scheduled next year before a solution is reached on the island's future.

Date created : 2011-09-26

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