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Turkey starts drilling as South EU leaders side with Cyprus

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey’s natural gas exploitation vessel Fatih started drilling right in the West of Cyprus.”

“We’ve sent our drill ships [to the Eastern Mediterranean] in order to protect the rights of Turkey and the TRNC [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus],” he said.

But Greek Cyprus “panicked when they saw the ships,” he added.

“We used to do seismic exploration because we didn’t have a drilling vessel. Now our Fatih 1 started drilling right in the west of Cyprus,” he said in an interview with Turkey’s state-run Anadolou news agency.

He added that Turkey is also sending a second ship to the area, the Yavuz, because “despite all our warnings for years, the Greek side started unilateral exploration around Cyprus, seismic exploration and now drilling operations.”

Any Cypriot deal for oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean that excludes Turkey is “invalid,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry stressed.

Turkish-flagged drillship Fatih launched offshore drilling operations on May 3 in an area 75 kilometers (42 nautical miles) off the western coast of Cyprus. the Yavus is expected to sail in the area next month.

Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying Turkish Cypriots also have rights to the resources in the area and Ankara has a right to hydrocarbon drilling activities as well.

South EU Leaders Summit in Malta

Cavusoglus’ statements on Friday came as the 6th South EU Summit was taking place in Malta. Leaders of France, Cyprus, Malta, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece expressed their support to the inalienable sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and unanimously condemning Turkish violations.

“I thank the leaders of the Summit #EUMed7Malta for their support to the inalienable right of the Republic of Cyprus to exercise its sovereign rights within its EEZ and for unanimously condemning the violation of international law, the law of the sea on the part of Turkey,” Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said in a message posted on Twitter on Saturday following Friday’s 6th Summit of the Southern European Union Countries in Valletta.

He also noted Cyprus-related references contained in the Valletta Declaration, which was adopted by the leaders at the MED7 Summit.

In Valletta, French President Emmanuel Macron urged Turkey to stop “illegal activities” in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone and said the European Union would not back down on the issue.

“I want to reiterate my solidarity with Cyprus and my support and respect for its sovereignty. Turkey must stop its illegal activities in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone,” Macron said after a summit of Southern European Union heads of states on Friday (Jun 14) in Malta, Cyprus news agency CNA reports

“The European Union will not show weakness on this matter,” he said.

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