Conflict Persists Over Gas Field Drilling in Cyprus

Italian, Tukish Foreign Ministers meet as blockade of Italian ship on

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Greece and Cyprus on Tuesday not to "step out of line" with regard to the Aegean and hydrocarbon exploration.

"The minister agreed on the need to take into account their respective national interests and the concerns of Italian and Turkish governments", the Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"We are keeping calm in order to avoid any crisis and taking all diplomatic steps necessary so that finally Cyprus' sovereign rights can be respected", Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, said.

Supermajors Eni and Total have made a promising gas discovery offshore Cyprus last week that confirms that the Zohr-like play, where Eni found the biggest gas deposit in the Mediterranean offshore Egypt, extends into the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone, the Italian group said.

Turkey and Cyprus have long argued over the eastern Mediterranean, and Ankara has been stringent in defending the claims of Turkish Cypriots for a share of energy resources.

Yildirim said the Greek and Turkish military chiefs would meet on the margins of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting in Brussels in May.

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On Tuesday, Erdogan told Greece, Cyprus and any worldwide companies exploring for gas in the Mediterranean not to encroach on Turkey's territory. Cyprus was disregarding the "inalienable rights" to natural resources of Turkish Cypriots and jeopardizing the region's stability, the ministry claimed in a statement.

Turkey and Greece, NATO allies, have been at odds over a host of issues from ethnically split Cyprus to sovereignty over airspace and overflights.

"From our side, our actions reflect the necessity of avoiding anything which could escalate (the situation), without of course overlooking the violation of worldwide law perpetrated by Turkey", Anastasiades told journalists in Nicosia.

"Turkey needs to commit unequivocally to good neighborly relations and avoid any kind of source of friction, threat or action directed against a member state" European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said.

Cyprus became a member of the European Union in 2004, but only the southern part of the island enjoys full benefits.

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