Conflict Persists Over Gas Field Drilling in Cyprus

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It says the precise circumstances of the incident, which occurred around midnight Monday, are unclear.

Cyprus on Sunday said the Turkish military had obstructed a vessel contracted by Italian oil company Eni which was approaching an area to explore for natural gas.

The island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third in response to a coup sponsored by the military junta then ruling Greece. Greece and Turkey are both North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, but the administration of Cyprus has been a source of tension ever since they fought a war over its control in 1974.

The spokesman of the Cypriot government, Nicos Christodoulides, said yesterday that the ship of the National Hydrocarbons Entity (Eni) of Italy, is about 30 miles from its destination, the so-called Block 3 in waters of the Exclusive Economic Zone, pending of instructions and denounced his detention as a violation of worldwide law.

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.

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Turkey rejects what it says is a "unilateral" search for resources by the Cypriot government, saying that it forgets the rights of the retracted Turkish Cypriots to the island's natural resources, threatening security and stability in the region.

The EU cautioned Turkey to respect the territory of its member states and to avoid ratcheting up tensions.

Italy and Cyprus are pursuing diplomatic efforts to unblock the situation, while the European Union calls on Turkey to avoid threats or actions against any of its members and to commit to maintaining good-neighborly relations, peacefully resolving disputes and respecting the sovereignty of other nations.

At the same time, President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades accused Turkey of violating global law by blocking the ship, pledging to take "necessary steps".

"We recommend that foreign companies don't allow themselves to be an instrument of issues that surpass their limits and strength, by trusting the Greek Cypriot side". "They are standing up to us until they see our army, ships and planes", he said. Cyprus says a Turkish notice blocking off the area for military activity violates global law and is legally invalid.

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