Turkey says deploys new drill ship away from disputed waters

Turkey on Tuesday resumed hydrocarbon drilling operations in the eastern Mediterranean with an inauguration ceremony for the country's newest and largest undersea hydrocarbon drill ship attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The new drillship, Abdülhamid Han, will operate outside of the disputed waters of Cyprus, northwest of the ethnically-divided island, state-run Anadolu news agency cited the Turkish president as saying.

The move follows a two-year hiatus by Ankara from drilling in the region.

Turkey has long been at odds with Greece and Cyprus over territorial claims in the disputed waters and drilling activities for potential hydrocarbon resources. The country’s repeated deployment of Turkish drill ships in areas claimed by Greece and Cyprus has infuriated their governments, prompting the European Union to introduce a sanctions framework for persons and entities involved.

Our exploration and drilling in the Mediterranean is within our own sovereign dominion,” President Erdoğan said at the ceremony in southern Mersin province, only to add: “We don’t need to seek permission or ratification from anyone.”

The new Abdulhamid Han ship will begin drilling at the Yorukler-1 well about 55 kilometres (34 miles) off the coast of Gazipaşa, in southern Antalya province, Anadolu cited the Turkish president as saying.

“Neither the puppets nor the ones who hold their strings will be able to prevent us from getting our rights in the Mediterranean,” Erdoğan said, in an apparent reference to Greece and Cyprus and their Western allies.

 “We don’t need to seek permission or ratification from anyone,” he added.

Diplomatic relations between Greece and Turkey reached the lowest point in decades in 2020 year after Turkey sent the Oruç Reis vessel, escorted by warships, into waters claimed by Greece to search for natural gas. Greece responded by deploying its navy.

The standoff prompted the EU to temporarily impose sanctions against senior Turkish Energy Ministry officials.

The sides have since held bilateral contacts to help resolve the dispute, searching for common ground to end long-standing differences over maritime borders.

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