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Tayyip-Erdogan warns Cyprus not to try Turkey over gas standoff

ANKARA (Monitoring desk): Turkish President Tayyip-Erdogan on Tuesday forewarned Cyprus to not “overstep the mark” in eastern Mediterranean, after accusations by Greek Cypriots on Turkish military of stalling a vessel exploring natural gas, over the weekend.

Tayyip-Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party in parliament “Our warships and security units are following all developments in the region with the instruction to do whatever is necessary”.

Turkey, which has no diplomatic relations with Cyprus, says some offshore maritime zone of Cyprus fall under jurisdiction of Turkey or Turkish Cypriots, condemning tensions in eastern Mediterranean border over claims for offshore resources.

“We warn those who overstep the mark in Cyprus and the Aegean,” he said. “They are standing up to us until they see our army, ships and planes,” he said, comparing the situation in the Aegean Sea and Cyprus with the Syrian region of Afrin where Turkey is waging an offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades refused to respond to the remarks of Tayyip-Erdogan but commented there was nothing worrisome.

Cyprus is among various states, including Israel and Lebanon, bidding to tap gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greek Cypriots run Cyprus’s internationally recognized government, while Turkish Cypriots have a breakaway state in the north – recognized only by Ankara – and say resources around the island belong to them too.

The area where the Saipem 1200 drill ship was headed, Block 3 of Cyprus’s economic zone, is also claimed by Turkish Cypriots. Turkey’s state-owned oil company also plans to search for oil and gas off Cyprus, ethnically partitioned between its Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.

Saipem is contracted by Italy’s state-controlled Eni, whose officials have confirmed the drill ship was stopped by Turkish ships on Friday afternoon because of a military exercise in the area.

Cyprus has seemed keen to downplay the standoff, which appears to be the worst escalation of simmering tensions since the island struck a small quantity of natural gas in 2011.

“There is no cause for anyone to be concerned. This is being handled in a manner to avert any possible crisis which could create problems either to the economy or to the state,” President Anastasiades told reporters in Nicosia.

The European Union on Monday called on Turkey to avoid threats and “refrain from any actions that might damage good neighborly” ties.

Eni and France’s Total, partners in a Cyprus venture, announced last week finding a promising gas field off Cyprus. They said the find looked geologically similar to the Zohr field off Egypt, which holds an estimated 30 trillion cubic feet of gas, the largest field ever found in the Mediterranean.

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup. Peace talks collapsed last year.