Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed hope that NATO will support the country's claims to drilling rights in the eastern part of Mediterranean Sea. He added that the alliance's support can prevent further tensions on the issue.
"The legitimate rights of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on the energy sources in the Mediterranean, in Eastern Mediterranean, cannot be debatable at all. And our country is determined to protect its own rights and the rights of the Turkish Cypriots", Erdogan said.
Earlier, the US State Department expressed deep concern over Turkey's intentions to start drilling operations in Cyprus' offshore region, reportedly rich in oil and gas. The region is disputed by the Greek Cypriot government and Turkey.
"[Turkey's] step is highly provocative and risks raising tensions in the region. We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restrain", State Department statement said.
The US was joined by the EU, who expressed "grave concern" over Turkey's decision and called on Ankara to show restraint and refrain from "any such illegal action". The bloc promised to otherwise respond "appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus".
Turkey sent a drilling ship to Cyprus' offshore area on 4 May after announcing its decision to start a drilling operation in the zone, claimed as an exclusive economic by the Republic of Cyprus. The Greek Cypriot government has slammed the move as "a flagrant violation of [its] sovereign rights".
Ankara for its part has argued that the Republic of Cyprus doesn't take the rights of Turkish Cypriots into consideration and stated that Turkey also has the right to extract natural resources from the eastern Mediterranean.