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Yavuz to begin drilling south of Cyprus by Tuesday (Update 1)

FILE PHOTO: Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz is escorted by Turkish Navy frigate TCG Gemlik (F-492) in the eastern Mediterranean

The Turkish drillship Yavuz will begin drilling for oil and gas southwest of Cyprus on Monday or Tuesday, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said, in a move which has intensified tensions between the two countries.

Ankara said on Thursday it had sent the ship to the area where the Cyprus government has already awarded hydrocarbon exploration rights to Italian and French companies.

Cyprus has accused Turkey of a “severe escalation” of violations of its sovereign rights.

“All preparations have been completed, and it (Yavuz) will start its first drilling in the area either today or tomorrow,” Donmez told an energy conference on Monday.

Turkey has already drilled wells in waters to the east and west of the island, triggering strong protests from Nicosia and the European Union in recent months, including EU sanctions.

The latest development is the first time the two sides have targeted the same area. The United States has warned Turkey not to engage in “illegal” drilling activity in the area.

On Monday, Yavuz was located about 50 nautical miles (90 km) southwest of Cyprus, Refinitiv Eikon shipping data showed.

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