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Greece tells Turkey to stop challenging Cyprus natgas efforts

Greece urged NATO partner Turkey on Friday to stop harassing Cyprus while it looks to exploit offshore natural gas fields, wading into a dispute that has complicated peace efforts on the ethnically-split island.

The row prompted Greek Cypriots to suspend peace talks with estranged Turkish Cypriots last month.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said he fully supported the decision, accusing Turkey of trying to provoke Cyprus.

“Provocations cannot be ignored, nor can they be rewarded,” he said during a visit to Nicosia. “We hope Turkey will reconsider, to allow talks to resume.”

Cypriot authorities say a Turkish research vessel, the Barbaros, has been sailing in waters close to exploration sites that Cyprus has already licensed to Italy’s ENI, France’s Total and U.S. Noble Energy.

The island reported its first find in 2011, with a reservoir containing an estimated 5 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas. It borders on waters Cyprus shares with Israel, which has recorded some of the world’s biggest finds in the past decade.

Turkey, which supports a Turkish Cypriot breakaway state in north Cyprus, disputes Nicosia’s rights to search for gas.

Greek Cypriots say Turkish Cypriots can share potential benefits, but only when there is a peace deal.

“Hydrocarbons in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone belong to the Republic of Cyprus, and, post-settlement, any revenue from exploitation will benefit all of Cyprus’s legal residents,” Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said.

Samaras and Anastasiades were due to travel to Egypt for a meeting with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi on Saturday. Talks were to focus on energy cooperation, Cypriot officials said.

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