NEWS

International community backs Cyprus’s gas exploration project, FM says

Cyprus? foreign minister said on Friday that the international community backs the island?s plans to drill for oil and gas off its shores, despite Turkey?s strong opposition.

Erato Markoulli said the international community has afforded Cyprus political protection for the search for mineral deposits inside its exclusive economic zone, which is near to sizable gas finds within Israeli waters.

?At this moment, we have a very satisfactory shield of political support over these actions,? she told state radio.

Markoulli said a rig belonging to Houston-based firm Noble Energy Inc. arrived on Thursday in the area where exploratory drilling will start soon, without any interference from Turkish warships in the region thanks to help from the international community.

?We are asking for these proactive steps and I believe these proactive steps have been taken to a great degree,? she said.

On Thursday, Turkey said it would strike an agreement with the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state that only it recognizes, to mark out undersea borders to facilitate future oil and gas exploration if Greek Cypriots went ahead with drilling.

The Cyprus foreign ministry said any such agreement would contravene international law and insisted it has the sovereign right to pursue drilling activities.

Markoulli said the government has briefed the United Nations? Security Council members as well as top EU officials about Cyprus? drilling plans and Turkey?s threats Tensions in the East Mediterranean heightened further Thursday after Greece protested a decision by Turkey to send a vessel to search for oil and gas south of a Greek island. [AP]