Turkey to send second drilling ship off Cyprus despite calls to defuse tensions

Turkey's minister of energy and natural resources said on Tuesday another Turkish vessel will be sent for offshore drilling for oil and gas near Northern Cyprus in the coming days, Turkish news site Dünya reported.

The struggle for rich gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has been fuelling tension between Turkey, Cyprus and Greece. European Union member states and U.S. officials have objected to Turkey's increasing drilling efforts in the region.

Nicosia and Athens disagree with Ankara’s claims of drilling rights in the region. Turkey, the only nation to recognise the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, maintains that attempts by Cyprus to conduct gas exploration are a violation of the rights of the Turkish part of the divided island.

Turkish minister Fatih Dönmez's statement came at a time when the U.S. Ambassador to Greece called on Ankara to avoid further provocative actions and return to dialogue.

“The United States and the European Union share a perspective on developments in the waters off of Cyprus, and in particular, our shared interest in avoiding any further provocative actions by Turkey,” U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the crisis in the eastern Mediterranean also affected the EU enlargement plans. The Cypriot government has threatened to veto any agreement on future enlargement, which needs unanimous backing of all EU states to be approved, unless the bloc takes a tough stance against Turkey's drilling efforts in East Mediterranean.