The Turkish drillship Fatih was to set sail on Thursday from the Gulf of Izmit for the eastern Mediterranean to begin exploration for oil and gas.
The state-run Turkish Petroleum company said that the first stop by the Fatih – formerly known as DeepSea Metro-II – will be Antalya on the southwestern coast of Turkey, but it did not clarify where exactly it intends to start drilling.
There are concerns that if Ankara begins drilling off the coast of Cyprus, where Nicosia has already granted exploration licenses to foreign companies, then tensions in the region could flare up.
Turkey says it will prevent Cyprus from searching for gas and oil off its coast if Turkish Cypriots are not included in the process.
Tensions between the two countries reached breaking point in February after Turkish warships prevented a rig of Italian energy giant ENI from drilling in block 3 of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
According to reports, Ankara intends to begin operations before presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24.
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the Turkish opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Muharrem Ince visited the town of Komotini in Thrace, northeastern Greece on Thursday and spoke to leaders of the muslim community.