Turkey has started drilling for oil and natural gas in breakaway Northern Cyprus, defying protests from the Republic of Cyprus that its actions are illegal.
Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO), the country’s state-run oil company, launched onshore drilling for hydrocarbons on Thursday at a 3,000-meter-deep well near the town of Trikomo, close to the Greek Cypriot border, The Wall Street Journal reports.
At the opening ceremony, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said the well – named “Turkish homeland” – would be the first of a “drilling package” on Cyprus and would be “a cause for peace” on the island.
The move counters an offshore gas search permitted by rival Greek Cypriots on the island’s internationally recognized southern half last year, which sparked outrage from Ankara and Turkish Cypriots, according to the Associated Press.
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The north of the island broke away in 1974 after Turkey invaded to put down a coup staged by supporters of union with Greece. Its independence is recognized only by Turkey, and it desperately needs income and energy.
Turkey argues that until ongoing discussions over the reunification of Cyprus succeed, no government has the right to negotiate over the island’s territorial waters.
According to Reuters, a spokesman for the Greek foreign ministry in Athens said Thursday’s move was illegal, and breached UN resolutions on the island which call on member states to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus.
“This action once again highlights that the Cyprus issue is primarily an issue of invasion and occupation,” the spokesman said.
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