"Stability in the eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus is only possible if Turkey’s and Northern Cyprus’ rights and interests are taken into account,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on 6 August. The following day his Energy Minister Fatih Donmez announced from the bridge of the Yavuz drillship that it had commenced drilling operations off the coast off the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (TRNC – a ‘country’ recognized only by Turkey) and said the seismic ship Oruc Reis would be sent later this month to back up state oil firm TPAO’s exploration activities in the East Mediterranean.

This would bring the number of Turkish exploration vessels in the area to four, as well as a number of accompanying warships. Turkey’s first drillship ‘Fatih’ is currently 90km of western Cyprus (in waters claimed by Turkey but which are Cypriot according to international maritime legislation) and has drilled to a depth of 5,000 ms according to Turkish daily Sabah. Its seismic ship Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa has for months been carrying out operations in waters south of Cyprus in blocks awarded to the Turkish state oil firm TPAO by the TRNC. These blocks overlap with seven blocks carved out by the internationally recognized controlled Republic of Cyprus (RoC) – see map. (CONTINUED - 1553 WORDS)