U.S. urges Turkey to halt drilling operations off Cyprus coast

Oil tanker Morning Glory

Turkey's foreign ministry said it rejected statements by Greek and European Union officials that Turkish drilling for gas and oil off Cyprus was illegitimate.

The Turkish foreign ministry argues that the E.U.is not an impartial mediator in the Cyprus dispute.

The Turkish Fatih ship started drilling last month 42 miles (67 kilometers) off Cyprus' west coast.

Turkey and Cyprus are at loggerheads over offshore gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean that are claimed by the Cypriots and disputed by Ankara.

Refinitiv Eikon shipping data showed a Turkish ship arrived off the east coast of Cyprus earlier this week.

The United States expressed its concern on Tuesday over escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean prompted by Turkey's attempt to drill for oil and gas in the waters off Cyprus.

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Turkey on Wednesday rejected European Union condemnation of its drilling and said the bloc can not be considered an impartial mediator for the divided island.

The Yavuz drillship dropped anchor on Monday to the south of Cyprus' Karpasia peninsula, a jutting northeastern panhandle.

"We urge Turkish authorities to stop those operations, while we encourage all concerned parties to preserve restraint and refrain from actions that could fuel further tensions", the statement read.

Cyprus is divided between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and a breakaway state set up after the 1974 Turkish invasion, following a coup sponsored by the military junta then ruling Greece. Several peacemaking endeavors have failed and the discovery of offshore resources has increasingly complicated peace negotiations.

The measures will likely be agreed Wednesday at a meeting of European Union envoys and aproved by European Union foreign ministers when they meet in Brussels next week.

"On their own, these measures. can not and will not stop the destabilising behaviour of Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean or more generally", he told Cyprus' Sigma TV. Turkey has sent exploration vessels into the area and Cyprus says that is a violation of its sovereignty.

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