The government of Cyprus has called Turkey a “pirate state” after Ankara announced on Friday that the drilling ship Yavuz started to conduct its third drilling operation on the southern coast of Cyprus.

The Cypriot government accused Turkey of carrying out “a flagrant violation” of the country’s sovereignty and maritime law as the drilling was conducted inside exploration block 8, which Cyprus has licensed to Eni and Total. Exploration block 8 is part of Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone, a 70,000 km2 area divided into 13 exploration blocks where the country has special rights regarding exploration and the use of resources.

According to the Turkish foreign ministry, the operations are legal as the licence was granted to state-owned Turkish Petroleum in 2011 by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a de facto state not recognised by the international community.

On 13 July 2019, Turkish Cypriot authorities proposed to Cyprus a deal where the two states would partner and share revenues coming from oil and natural gas drillings.

Turkish foreign ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said: “In this licence area, as the co-owners of the Island, Turkish Cypriots have rights as much as the Greek Cypriots.”

European External Action Service (EEAS) spokesperson Peter Stano criticised Turkey’s drilling attempts and reaffirmed the need for states to abide by international law.

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He said: “Concrete steps towards creating an environment conducive to dialogue in good faith are needed. The intention by Turkey to launch further exploration and drilling activities in the wider region goes, regrettably, in the opposite direction.”

Turkey accused the EU of having double standards and ignoring the rights of Turkish Cypriots.

“The European Union has remained silent since 2003, to the usurpation and violation of the rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean. The EU, acting under the pretext of union solidarity should first of all end its unrealistic, prejudiced and double standard policies,” said Aksoy.