Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar paid a visit to the Abdulhamid Han drillship at Tasucu port in Mersin for a briefing and a photo-opportunity.

Photographed in front of the drill ship, Tatar praised its importance for the gas exploration programme in the seas of the Turkish Republic.

“The services of such a ship will be great. It is really a very big vessel. Its service will protect Turkey’s rights in the seas over the exploration and development of wealth through various drilling activities in these areas,” Tatar said.

“May the drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, perhaps around Cyprus as well, be fruitful,” he added, in what could have been taken as an indication of Turkey’s intention to enter the Cypriot EEZ.

Turkey’s Vice President, Fuat Oktay, had announced that the Abdulhamid Han would begin gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean next month.

The Abdulhamid Han is Turkey’s fourth drillship, and is named after one of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire.

Asked about Turkey’s plans on a CyBC show, energy minister Natasa Pilidou said that the competent state bodies were closely monitoring Ankara’s announcements and reassured that any illegal actions will be condemned.

She also said that there were indications as to where the drillship would be active, despite the lack of a specific information from Turkey.

The Times of Israel, quoting an unnamed, top Turkish official, said explorations would take place near Cyprus.

Government spokesman Marios Pelekanos, talking on state television, described Turkey’s illegal actions in Cyprus’ EEZ as unacceptable and reprehensible emphasizing that the moves of Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots were against international law and to the principles and values of the European Union.

He also said that Nicosia is taking all the necessary steps to thwart the Turkish plans.

The drillship is expected to leave Mersin on August 9 and, according to the Turkish energy minister, head to the Eastern Mediterranean. However, the exact location of its exploration will be announced by President Tayyip Erdogan.

In Mersin, Tatar repeated his position on the Cyprus problem, stressing the need for a “political agreement based on the equal cooperation of two states living side-by-side.”

A few days ago, Oktay had said that “the hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean are no toy for the Greek Cypriots.”