Fresh warnings from Ankara over Cyprus drilling

Turkey issued fresh warnings on Wednesday against Nicosia?s plans to drill for oil and gas off the Mediterranean island?s southern coast, as a United States envoy rejected calls from Ankara to urge an American company to cease its exploration plans in the region.

Speaking after meeting US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone in the Turkish capital, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said that ?no one should test Ankara?s determination.?

Turkey objects to the drilling in the eastern Mediterranean, saying Turkish Cypriots should not be left out of any exploitation of natural resources. ?We can?t see drillings in indefinite, undescribed parts of an exclusive economic zone as a legitimate activity,? Yildiz told reporters. He said potential findings will undermine the diplomatic campaign for a settlement on the divided island.

Houston-based firm Noble Energy, which is currently conducting exploratory drilling off the Israeli coast, is set to begin work in Cypriot waters in late September. Solon Kasinis, of Cyprus?s energy ministry, said on Wednesday that the project, which is expected to last for two months, should begin by October 1.

Turkey has in the past lobbied Washington to halt the project. But on Wednesday, Ricciardone said such a move was not on the cards. ?I am not about to give advice to American companies,? the US ambassador said. He stressed however that the US will continue efforts to reach a peace settlement on the island.

Earlier this month, Cyprus lodged an official complaint with the United Nations and the European Union after Turkey warned Nicosia against the drills. Greece has said it will throw its weight behind the project.

Christos Christofides, alternate government spokesman in Nicosia, said that making use of any oil or gas found in Cyprus?s territorial waters is a sovereign right.