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Turkish Ship Begins Oil Exploration Off Cyprus

Turkish frigates and warplanes on Tuesday escorted a research ship to begin oil and gas explorations off the divided island of Cyprus, retaliation for a similar move by the Greek Cypriot government, the research ship’s captain said.

Cyprus is divided into a Greek Cypriot South and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot North. The Southern government began exploratory drilling for oil and gas last week, prompting strong protests from Turkey which doesn’t recognize the Greek Cypriot administration.

In response, Turkey signed an oil and gas exploration deal with Turkish Cypriot administration and sent a Turkish research ship to the Mediterranean to start exploration.

“We will try all channels of peace but we will also protect our country’s interests until the end,” Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday at a ceremony to mark the delivery of the first Turkish-made corvette warship to the navy.

The research ship, Koca Piri Reis, began its research Monday but Turkish and Turkish Cypriots officials refused to reveal the ship’s exact location on Tuesday amid unconfirmed reports that it was close to an area where U.S.-based Noble Energy Inc. started exploring oil and gas deposits under license from Greek Cypriot government.

The captain of the ship, Umut Yenice, told the state-run Anatolia news agency that the ship reached its destination about 50 miles (80 kilometers) off Cyprus on Monday without the giving the ship’s coordinates. He said the ship with 21 people aboard was in frequent contact with escorting Turkish frigates and Turkish planes flew above.

Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said the ship is “where it is supposed to be,” while Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis refused to disclose the ship’s location during a visit to the self-declared Turkish Cypriot state, saying: “I am not a sailor.”

(source CBSNews)

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