With Turkey earlier having sent warships off the coast trying to keep foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas, Cyprus' legitimate government said it has asked the US giant ExxonMobil, France's Total and Italy's Eni to bid for more licenses to explore for oil and gas.
The companies are already active in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) parts of which Turkey doesn't recognize and as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he would authorize drilling unless Turkish-Cypriots share in the licensing process.
A Turkish warship earlier this year kept a vessel from Eni from teaching the waters where it is licensed, using the threat of sinking the vessel.
The new licenses are for a different area offshore area known as Block 7 and the companies have a month to make their bids, officials said, Phys.org News reported.
Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis said Cyprus made the move due to "very specific geological reasons" related to a discovery in an adjacent block, announced by ENI in February.
Cyprus' government is forging ahead with energy explorations in the wake of the collapse of reunification talks in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never remove an army on the northern third of the island occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion.
Erdogan has warned foreign energy companies not to "overstep the mark" in disputed waters off the Cypriot coast although Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said he was willing to share any potentially lucrative revenues with the Turkish side, not enough to appease the Turkish leader.
Texas-based Noble Energy in 2011 made the first discovery off Cyprus in the Aphrodite block, estimated to contain around 4.5 trillion cubic feet of gas. The discovery of Egypt's huge nearby Zohr offshore reservoir in 2015 raised hopes Cypriot waters are plentiful with energy. Cyprus wants to send natural gas to a liquefied natural gas facility in Egypt by 2022 and the countries have agreed to build an underwater pipeline.