Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said that he has sent a hydrocarbon exploration vessel into the eastern Mediterranean.
Ankara will not allow the interests of Turks in the occupied north of Cyprus to be affected, he added in a speech at the presidential palace, saying that any activity in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone needs to include both sides.
Erdoğan said that Turkey's stance regarding drilling offshore Cyprus "had hopefully been instructive for some who saw an opportunity to start unilateral moves in the region when Turkey is engaged in anti-terrorism operations elsewhere."
"Turkish and Greek Cyprus should form a joint committee for drilling activities and both sides should get their fair share of the island's natural resources based on their populations," Turkey's Daily Sabah quoted Erdogan as saying.
"Turkish and Greek Cyprus should form a joint committee for drilling activities"
He announced that Turkey's first drilling vessel, with cutting-edge technology and a width of 36 meters, will soon depart to start drilling operations in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The comments come after a senior US diplomat said last week that Washington supported the energy search by Cyprus for offshore oil and gas after a standoff with Turkey.
Two survey vessels from U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil have arrived off Cyprus to conduct preliminary investigations ahead of planned exploration later this year.
"The United States support the Republic of Cyprus in its right to develop natural resources including in the Exclusive Economic Zone," Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell said.
He made the comments after meeting President Nicos Anastasiades during a fact-finding mission to the island.
"We are very supportive of the Republic of Cyprus and appreciate the long-standing friendship that we have," Mitchell said.
Last month Cyprus was embroiled in a standoff that saw Turkish warships block an Italian drillship from exploring for gas in the island's politically sensitive waters.
Turkey and Cyprus have long argued over the eastern Mediterranean, and Ankara has been stringent in defending the claims of Turkish Cypriots for a share of energy resources.
Erdogan has warned foreign energy companies not to "overstep the mark" in the eastern Mediterranean.
The standoff over exploiting energy resources in the region risks further complicating stalled efforts to reunify Cyprus after U.N.-backed talks collapsed last year.