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Turkey threatens measures against Cyprus over exploration of gas deposits

Just a week after UN-led talks broke down between Cyprus and Turkey to end a bitter 40-year division on the island, Ankara and Nicosia are once again at loggerheads. This time, the dispute centers around energy sources.

Cyprus said Thursday it will go ahead with exploratory drilling for untapped oil and gas reserves off its southern shores despite Turkish demands for it to cease operations. Talks, led by the United Nations, to end a 40-year diplomatic crisis between Cyprus and the Turkish-governed northern part fell through last week.

The island in the Mediterranean Sea has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and later successfully occupied the northern third. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus remains only recognized by Turkey itself. Nevertheless, Ankara has warned the internationally recognized Greek Republic of Cyprus not to pursue its plans to drill for gas deposits in the Mediterranean.

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Turkey, which has around 30,000 troops stationed on the island, believes the gas belongs to both sides of the island, insisting Cyprus' plans violate the rights of the Turkish Cypriots. On Thursday, the Turkish military sent a vessel to the eastern Mediterranean to "monitor the ship, West Capella, which is considered to be capable of drilling for the Greek Cypriot administration."

Earlier on Monday at the World Petroleum Forum, Turkey's President Erdogan gave a strong warning on energy companies, who wish to approach a deal with Cyprus. "Energy companies who involve themselves in irresponsible steps taken by the Greek Cypriot side can never be met with understanding," said Erdogan. "They could lose a friend in Turkey."

But Greek Cypriots are exhibiting their "sovereign rights" to exploit gas deposits around the island, according to Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. "This choice has the support of Greece, as well as the European Union and the international community against any threat," he told reporters on Monday.

rd/bb (AFP, Reuters)

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