Cyprus seeks EU backing to counter Turkey's gas drilling bid

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus will rally support from fellow European Union countries and others to counter Turkey's bid to drill in waters where the east Mediterranean island nation has exclusive economic rights, Cypriot officials said Wednesday.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said he will outline Turkey's actions to other EU leaders at a summit in Romania.

Anastasiades had earlier denounced Turkey's drilling intentions as a "flagrant violation of Cyprus' sovereign rights and international law" and asked the EU and the United Nations to call Turkey out.

Defense Minister Savvas Angelides said Cyprus won't be dragged into a situation that could heighten regional tensions because Turkey wants to foster instability. He said the aim is to get the EU to acknowledge the need for collective action against the "invasion" of Turkish drill ships.

"Our calm mustn't be misinterpreted as weakness," Angelides said after talks with Greek counterpart Evangelos Apostolakis.

Cypriot officials said the U.S., Russia, France, Greece and Egypt have also condemned Turkey's actions. EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini last week urged Turkey to respect Cyprus' sovereign rights and refrain from any illegal action to which the bloc "will respond appropriately in full solidarity" with Cyprus.

According to Cypriot authorities, the Turkish drillship Fatih is now anchored some 68 kilometers (42 miles) northwest of Paphos, a resort town on the island's southwestern edge.

It is escorted by three support ships and a Turkish navy frigate, but hasn't started drilling yet.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday said his country is acting in accordance with international law to protect its rights and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots on ethnically divided Cyprus to offshore hydrocarbon reserves.

Turkey, which doesn't recognize Cyprus as a state, claims part of Cyprus' exclusive economic zone falls within its own continental shelf.

Cavusoglu said Turkey will dispatch a second drillship to the area. "We will continue to take all kinds of necessary steps without hesitation," he said.

Energy companies ExxonMobil, Noble Energy, France's Total and Italy's Eni are licensed to drill off Cyprus' southern coast. Sizeable natural gas deposits have so far been found in three offshore areas.

Cyprus says any future gas proceeds will be shared equitably with Turkish Cypriots after a reunification accord is reached.

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