Turkey is determined to defend its rights in eastern Mediterranean, where ongoing disputes over oil and gas reserves have caused a spike in tensions between Ankara and Greek Cyprus, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Saturday.

“We will defend Turkey’s rights in the eastern Mediterranean to the full extent despite Western threats,” state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Erdoğan as saying while addressing a crowd in the country’s northeastern province of Artvin.

Erdoğan’s statement follows a move by the European Union Foreign Affairs Council last month to slap sanctions on Turkey for what it called illegal drilling around the island of Cyprus.

Ankara does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone and claims some parts of it lie on its own continental shelf.

Turkey, which already has two drilling vessels in the region, announced plans this month to send the fourth vessel to the eastern Mediterranean, asserting the right of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) to the resources of the region.

As the only country to recognize the breakaway TRNC, Turkey says Turkish Cypriots have a right to a share of the island’s resources. The Cypriot government says they will receive a fair share once the island is reunified.

Athens and Greek Cypriots have long opposed Turkey’s exploration in the region, threatening to arrest the ships’ crews and calling on EU leaders to take action.

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