The European Union (EU) has condemned efforts by Turkey to drill for natural gas offshore Cyprus.

The Turkish Yavuz vessel sailed to a target area off the Karpas peninsula, located on Cyprus’ east coast, on 8 July.

This latest attempt is the second made by Turkey to drill offshore Cyprus, following the Fatih ship being deployed 42 miles off the west coast of Cyprus in May. EU foreign minister Federica Mogherini warned Turkey that the EU would respond ‘appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus’ following the deployment of the Fatih vessel.

In response to the deployment of the Yavuz, Mogherini said: “Turkey’s declared intention to illegally conduct a new drilling operation northeast of Cyprus is of grave concern. This second planned drilling operation, two months after the start of the ongoing drilling operations west of Cyprus, is a further unacceptable escalation, which violates the sovereignty of Cyprus.

“We call on the Turkish authorities, once again, to refrain from such actions, act in a spirit of good neighbourliness and respect the sovereignty and sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus in accordance with international law.”

Turkey maintains that it is operating in regions where Turkish Cypriots have rights to the discovered natural gas resources. Turkish vice-president Fuat Oktay was reported by Turkish news agency Anadolu as saying: “Those who move against the legitimate rights of Turkey or the TRNC and discount Turkey in the region will not be able to reach their aims.”

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In a statement, the Cypriot Government said: “Turkey continues to blatantly violate international law, both conventional, as well as customary, flagrantly disregarding the European Union’s and the international community’s calls to cease its illegal activities and respect the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources within its maritime zones.

“Instead of engaging in dialogue, as the international community calls her to do, Turkey deliberately avoids doing so, in order to create new fait accomplis.

“The Republic of Cyprus is determined to continue to defend its legal rights to the benefit of all its legal citizens, intensifying its efforts at a legal, political and diplomatic level, using all means at its disposal, especially in the framework of the European Union.“

Turkish petroleum company TPAO, which owns the Yavuz vessel, was approached for comment.