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Cyprus, Greece brace for Turkish drill gambit

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Greece and Cyprus accused Turkey of stoking tensions as Ankara prepared to dispatch a drill ship to the Mediterranean in August to search for natural gas.

Relations between Athens and Ankara are strained over a raft of issues ranging from overflights to disputed waters.

Cyprus is a key point of division, deepened in recent years by overlapping and competing claims over offshore waters believed to contain large quantities of natural gas.

Turkey is set to send a drillship into the Mediterranean in early August in search of gas.

“We expect it to come,” Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told journalists after meeting his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Nicosia on Thursday.

“We discussed (taking) certain actions in the hope that this would avert the creation of any tensions in our exclusive economic zone.”

Nicosia would act in concert with its EU partners on the best course of action, Kasoulides said.

Cyprus and Greece plan to consult with other European Union members on responding if Turkey tries to drill for oil and gas inside the Cypriot exclusive economic zone.

Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said earlier this week that the country’s newest drill ship, the Abdullhamid Han, would set sail on August 9 for a drilling operation “in the Mediterranean.”

The exact location has not been announced.

Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway north claim their waters overlap many of the 13 blocks off the Republic’s southern coast that make up the zone.

Kasoulides, there are “more than six” potential areas where the Turkish drill ship could start work, and some may be outside Cyprus’ EEZ.

The government of Cyprus has granted drilling and exploration rights in nine of the blocks to ExxonMobil and its partner Qatar Petroleum, Chevron with Dutch Shell and Israel NewMed, and a consortium made up of Italy’s Eni and France’s TotalEnergies

Turkey previously dispatched warship-escorted drill ships and survey vessels inside Cypriot-claimed waters.

Similar excursions into waters claimed by Greece have ratcheted up military tensions.

The EU has strongly condemned Turkey’s actions and imposed sanctions on two individuals involved in such drilling expeditions. (source agencies)