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As Cyprus Unity Talks Set to Restart, Turkey Will Drill for Energy Off Island

NICOSIA – As collapsed Cyprus unity talks are due to resume in Geneva on June 28, Turkey said it will still go ahead with plans to hunt for oil and gas in Cypriot waters, a key issue in derailment of the negotiations earlier.

Turkey’s Energy Minister Berat Albayrak said his government will not pull out research ships even though Cyprus has licensed drilling off its coast in waters away from the northern third of the island unlawfully occupied by Turkish invaders and residents since 1974.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said he wouldn’t pick up the talks again with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci if the Turkish ships went into Cypriot waters and didn’t agree not to keep a 35,000-strong army on the island but has backed away from those pre-conditions as part of new negotiations.

Alayrak said Turkey intends to remain active with its research ships, not just within its own waters “but in those of Northern Cyprus” as well, the newspaper Kathimerini said, as he referred to what only Turkey calls the occupied territories.

Albayrak made his comments during a visit to the seismic survey vessel Barbaros off the coast of Karpasia in the Turkish-held north of Cyprus, where he announced that Ankara plans to commence “drilling in the Mediterranean before the end of the year.”

A few hours after his remarks, Turkey issued a new navigational telex (NAVTEX) reserving areas within Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) southwest of the town of Paphos, warning that on June 17 a “Turkish war ship will conduct dangerous operations and submarine activities.”

In another NAVTEX, Turkey announced a military exercise with live ammunition in the same area from June 14-17, ignoring Cypriot protests and Anastasiades.

Turkey claims that a part of Cyprus’s EEZ belongs to its continental shelf and has repeatedly warned the government not to go ahead with gas exploration and drilling without permission from Turkey which said it will claim a share of any findings.

International companies set to drill, including an American firm, said they will proceed with their plans despite what Turkey said.

At a reception hosted by the Embassy of Cyprus in Washington on Thursday, energy giant ExxonMobil said that its vision is for Cyprus to become a regional energy hub with export capabilities.

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