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    Turkey gets bolder as oil companies find gas resources near Cyprus

    Turkey has been ramping up pressure in eastern Mediterranean as now big oil companies have been announcing their gas discoveries off Cyprus, the Foreign Policy said on Thursday.

    Turkey has currently two drilling ships and one survey vessel off Cyprus, which, according to Turkish Defence Ministry, under “full and continuous protection” of the unmanned aerial vehicles, watercraft, assault boats and submarines of the naval forces.

    The tensions between Ankara and Nicosia have heightened substantially since the Turkish Navy last year prevented an exploration vessel leased by Italian energy firm Eni from drilling off Cyprus.

    Turkey says the exploration for potentially large gas reserves off Cyprus should take into account what it says are the rights of Turkish Cypriots in a breakaway state in the northern third of the island that Turkish troops invaded in 1974. Ankara has also territorial claims that overlap with Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

    ExxonMobil and Total along with Eni are among companies licensed to search for gas off Cyprus. The U.S. energy giant announced in February that it discovered near Cyprus in-place resources of 5 to 8 trillion cubic feet of gas, a similar order of magnitude to the Aphrodite and Calypso gas finds also in Cypriot waters.

    Turkey is ramping up the pressure, now that big oil companies are finding more and more gas around Cyprus and the divided island nation seems closer than ever to actually figuring out how to get the potentially valuable gas out of the ground and to market, the Foreign Policy said.

    “The closer we get to potential exploitation of offshore resources prior to a reconciliation between the two Cypriot communities, the bolder Turkey’s actions are going to be,” Foreign Policy quoted Mona Sukkarieh of the Beirut-based Middle East Strategic Perspectives as saying.

    One of the reasons behind Turkey’s behavior is the concern that its hand might weaken in peace talks for the unification of the island if Cyprus develops energy resources, the Foreign Policy said.

    According to Sukkarieh, the Greek Cypriots will have less incentive to solve the Cyprus dispute, if they reach a stage where the exploitation of offshore resources is possible.

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