15:24 GMT04 July 2020
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    Ankara previously sent its vessels to the Cypriot exclusive economic zone in order to carry out exploration for hydrocarbons despite pushback from Nicosia and the European Union. According to Turkey, its vessels have every right to drill in the Mediterranean region.

    The drilling ship Fatih has started operations off the north-eastern coast of Cyprus, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay told Anadolu news agency on Friday. In response, Cyprus stated that Ankara is showing contempt for international law, stressing that the action is completely illegal.

    The news comes after the EU Foreign Affairs Council adopted a framework for restrictive measures against Ankara earlier this week, slamming the Turkish authorities over the nation's drilling operations in the region.

    The Cypriot government has already awarded exploration rights in the zone to Italian and French companies, but Turkey continues to insist that it has the right to drill for natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, which includes the aforementioned area.

    © REUTERS / Murad Sezer
    Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz

    The situation is aggravated by a decades-long territorial conflict, which started in 1974 when Turkish forces arrived on Cyprus claiming they had to protect local Turks from the Greek community amid a political crisis.  In 1983, the "breakaway" part of the island proclaimed the establishment of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, but it is only currently recognised by Ankara.

    Fuat Oktay, Eastern Mediterranean, Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus, Turkey, oil drilling
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