Turkey made clear on Wednesday it has no intention of heeding a European Union warning to cease illegal drilling activities off Cyprus.
The discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has sparked a dispute between E.U. member Cyprus and Turkey, with Ankara last month sending a second ship called Yavuz to search for natural resources in the region.
“The drilling activities of our ship Yavuz are based on legal and legitimate grounds,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
The Cyprus Mail reports the 230-meter (750-foot) Yavuz drillship dropped anchor on Monday to the south of Cyprus‘ Karpasia peninsula, a jutting northeastern panhandle. It triggered a strong protest from Nicosia and stern words from the E.U. but little else could be physically done to stop the intrusion.
In June, E.U. leaders warned Turkey to end drilling in waters around the island or face action from the bloc.
The Mail said Ankara, which does not have diplomatic relations with Cyprus, maintains certain areas in Cyprus‘ offshore maritime zone, known as an EEZ, fall under the jurisdiction of Turkey or of Turkish Cypriots, who have their own breakaway state in the north of the island which is recognised only by Turkey.
The United States and Egypt also warned Turkey against escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.
“The United States remains deeply concerned by Turkey’s repeated attempts to conduct drilling operations in the waters off Cyprus,” the State Department said in a statement.
“We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restraint and refrain from actions that increase tensions in the region,” it said.
E.U. diplomats meet in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss any possible sanctions on Turkey.