Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned foreign energy firms over gas exploration off Cyprus, describing those who defy Ankara as "bandits of the sea" who would face a similar fate as its enemies in Syria.
Erdogan said in a speech marking the commissioning of a new Turkish warship that exploiting the resources of the eastern Mediterranean while excluding Ankara was unacceptable.
"As we made the terrorists in Syria pay, we will not leave the scene to the bandits of the sea," Erdogan said on Sunday at the commissioning of the TCG Burgazada, a home-built corvette combat ship.
Foreign energy giants such as ExxonMobil of the US, Italy's ENI and France's Total have all said they are committed to energy drilling off Cyprus, in defiance of past warnings from Erdogan.
But Erdogan said: "Those who thought they could take steps in the Eastern Mediterranean or the Aegean in defiance of Turkey have now begun to understand what a big mistake they were making.
"It is absolutely unacceptable to usurp the natural resources of the eastern Mediterranean while excluding Turkey and the TRNC," he added.
Analysts have warned that the situation is extremely combustible with the risk that one false move could lead to a major confrontation.
In February, a drill ship contracted by ENI to explore off Cyprus abandoned its mission after Turkish warships blocked its path.
Cyprus last month invited Total, ENI and ExxonMobil to bid for unclaimed Block 7 in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone. Block 10 has already been licensed to ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum.
Texas-based Noble Energy in 2011 made the first discovery off Cyprus in the Aphrodite block estimated to contain around 4.5 trillion cubic feet of gas.
The discovery of nearby Egypt's huge Zohr offshore reservoir in 2015 has stoked hopes that Cypriot waters hold further riches.