US urges Turkey to halt drilling operations off Cyprus coast

The drilling vessel Fatih which was deployed by Turkey to search for gas and oil in waters considered part of the Cyprus's exclusive economic zone seen

The Egyptian minister said the ministry has been following up with great concern the recent developments regarding Turkish plans to start exploratory drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus.

"As she [Turkey] protects its own continental shelf rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey will continue to defend Turkish Cypriots' rights and interests around the Island, insofar as the Greek Cypriots do not involve Turkish Cypriots in the decision-making mechanisms, including the revenue sharing on hydrocarbon resources, and guarantee their rights", the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

Cyprus and Greece see it as a provocation, and the European Union has called on Turkey to end drilling in Cyprus' exclusive economic zone.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has said that Turkish drilling off Cyprus is of "serious concern" and called the sending of the second ship, the Yavuz, yet another unacceptable escalation. A second vessel, Yavuz, has now sailed to an area off the Karpas peninsula on Cyprus' east coast.

Cyprus is divided between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and a breakaway state set up after the 1974 Turkish occupation, following a coup sponsored by the military government then ruling Greece.

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The Greek south has worldwide recognition while only Turkey recognizes the government in the north.

However, because of the concave shape of the Eastern Mediterranean, there is an overlap between the areas that each country can claim, requiring negotiation and compromise - and opportunity, say some, for leverage in ongoing conflicts.

Turkey and Cyprus are at loggerheads over offshore gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean that are claimed by the Cypriots and disputed by Ankara.

European Union diplomats are meeting in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss any possible sanctions on Turkey over the drilling before European Union foreign ministers meet on Monday.

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday urged Turkish authorities to halt energy drilling operations off the Cypriot coast in the Mediterranean, a day after Cyprus protested a Turkish ship dropping anchor there.

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