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Second Turkish ship to look for oil near Cyprus risks EU ire

Turkish police officers patrols next to the drilling ship 'Yavuz' scheduled to search for oil and gas off Cyprus, at the port of Dilovasi, outside Istanbul, on June 20, 2019. Turkey is set to send a new ship on June 20 to search for oil and gas off Cyprus.
Turkish police officers patrols next to the drilling ship 'Yavuz' scheduled to search for oil and gas off Cyprus, at the port of Dilovasi, outside Istanbul, on June 20, 2019. Turkey is set to send a new ship on June 20 to search for oil and gas off Cyprus. BULENT KILIC / AFP

A second Turkish ship will begin drilling for oil and gas in a disputed region off Cyprus next week. Energy minister Fatih Donmez said that drilling may start as early as next week. The European Union says Ankara's search for the black gold is "illegal".

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The discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has fuelled a race to tap underwater resources and triggered a dispute between Turkey and EU member Cyprus, which also plans to ramp up its exploratory activities in the area.

Turkey, which on June 20 sent a second ship for exploratory activities off the eastern Mediterranean, says its actions abide by international law.

"God willing we will be starting the first drilling within a week," Energy Minister Fatih Donmez was quoted as saying by the private NTV broadcaster.

The ship is called Yavuz and it is painted in bright red with Turkish flag's moon and star symbol in white over the height of its body. It will be exploring off the peninsula of Karpasia, the minister added.

Last month, Greece and Cyprus urged the European Union to take punitive measures against Turkey after Ankara announced it would expand exploration for potentially lucrative gas resources in the region.

Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, appealed to the EU “to unreservedly condemn the illegal actions of Turkey”.

The EU then warned against Turkey's "illegal" drilling, raising the threat of sanctions unless Turkish officials abandon the project.

But Ankara insists that it is drilling inside its continental shelf.

Turkey's first drilling vessel, Fatih, has already started searching for gas and oil in waters considered part of Cyprus's exclusive economic zone.

Cyprus has issued arrest warrants for Fatih's crew members, accusing the ship of breaching the republic's sovereign territory.

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