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France's Total Wants to Expand Energy Drilling Off Cyprus

Αssociated press

Stephane Michel, left, a senior executive with French energy company Total talks with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at the presidential palace, in Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Total is looking to expand its search for oil and gas off the coast of Cyprus and are looking to partner up with Italian energy firm Eni. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA — With Turkey still trying to keep foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus where they are licensed to explore, the government said France's Total wants to expand its operation to look for hydrocabons.

Energy Minister Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said Total is looking to expand its activities in Cypriot waters "in a variety of ways,” but didn't say what they were or why he couldn't as the talks are still in progress with the company.

He spoke after enior Total executive Stephane Michel met with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades who said the talks focused on ways to meet the common goal of "exploiting as many energy-producing sources as possible."

In April, Michel said Total had applied to carry out exploratory drilling in an area south of Cyprus where Italian company Eni is already licensed to search for gas but was driven off by Turkish warships under threat of being sunk.

There was no information on whether the French company would face the same problem and be challenged by the Turkish ships. Italy's government did nothing to help Eni but an American company also looking in a different area of Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) part of which Turkey won't recognize, proceeded as ships from the US Navy's Sixth Fleet were in the area conducting operations, which the US government said was purely coincidental.

Αssociated press

Stephane Michel, right, a senior executive with French energy company Total talks with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at the presidential palace, in Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who doesn't recognize Cyprus and bars its ship and planes at the same time he wants Turkey to be admitted to the European Union – to which Cyprus belongs – said unless Turkish-Cypriots are allowed to take part in the drilling that they would begin their own.

Negotiations to reunify the island fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when he said he would never remove an army on the northern third unlawfully occupied since a 1974 invasion and wanted the right to militarily intervene – invade further – when he wanted, which Anastasiades refused to discuss.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

Αssociated press

Stephane Michel, a senior executive with French energy company Total arrives at the presidential palace for talks with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, in Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Total is looking to expand its search for oil and gas off the coast of Cyprus and are looking to partner up with Italian energy firm Eni. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Αssociated press

Stephane Michel, a senior executive with French energy company Total arrives at the presidential palace for talks with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, in Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Total is looking to expand its search for oil and gas off the coast of Cyprus and are looking to partner up with Italian energy firm Eni. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)