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Turkey to resume drilling for gas near Cyprus, potentially inflaming tensions

Exploration in East Mediterranean region slated to begin August 9; Ankara has a maritime border dispute with Greece and Cyprus

The drilling vessel Fatih deployed by Turkey to search for gas and oil in waters considered part of the EU state's exclusive economic zone on June 24, 2019 (AFP)
Illustrative -- The drilling vessel Fatih deployed by Turkey to search for gas and oil in waters considered part of the EU state's exclusive economic zone on June 24, 2019 (AFP)

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkey will resume gas exploration off its coast in the Mediterranean on August 9, the energy ministry said Tuesday.

“Turkish drilling ship Adbulhamid Han will start a mission in the Mediterranean on August 9 departing from the Mersin port” in the south of the country, it said in a statement.

It did not say where exactly the drilling would take place, but a top Turkish official last week said it would carry on with exploration near the divided island of Cyprus next month.

The European Union came close to sanctioning Ankara in 2020 for pushing into contested east Mediterranean waters in search of fresh natural gas reserves.

Turkey disputes its maritime borders in the eastern Mediterranean with EU members Greece and Cyprus.

The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish forces occupied the northern part of the island in response to a military coup sponsored by the junta in power in Greece at the time.

The northern third is the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) — recognized only by Ankara.

The southern part of the island is Greek-speaking and a member of the European Union.

This is not the only contested natural gas drilling in the region. Israel and Lebanon have had their own maritime border dispute, which is currently under mediation led by the US government, amid threats by the Hezbollah terror group to attack Israeli offshore gas rigs.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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