Turkey’s president says he will not permit what he called the seizing of natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

Speaking at a naval ceremony Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would never accept such attempts “excluding our country and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”

Turkey and the Greek Cypriot government in Cyprus_who do not have diplomatic relations— are both planning hydrocarbon research in the Mediterranean Sea for natural gas reserves.

A Turkish ship began explorations for oil and natural gas this week off the coast of southern Antalya province. The first drilling location is not within disputed territories near Cyprus.

Off the divided island of Cyprus, Turkish Cypriots in northern Cyprus, who are supported by Turkey, say any offshore resources that Greek Cypriots tap into must be shared.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has warned foreign oil companies against energy exploration near Cyprus, describing those defying Ankara as “bandits of the sea” who would face a similar response as its foes in Syria.

Drilling for hydrocarbon resources off the coast of Cyprus, an EU member, is hugely sensitive. The northern third of the island is occupied by Turkey, which invaded in 1974 in response to a coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

“As we made the terrorists in Syria pay, we will not leave the scene to the bandits of the sea,” Erdoğan said at the commissioning of a Turkish warship, the TCG Burgazada.

Turkey has in the last two years waged successful military campaigns in Syria against Kurdish militia and Islamic State jihadists, which have brought parts of the country’s north under the control of pro-Ankara forces.

Foreign energy companies such as ExxonMobil, in the US, Italy’s ENI, and France’s Total, have all said they are committed to energy drilling near Cyprus, in defiance of Erdoğan’s earlier warnings.

Erdogan said: “Those who thought they could take steps in the eastern Mediterranean or the Aegean in defiance of Turkey have now begun to understand what a big mistake they were making.

Analysts have warned that the situation is extremely combustible and that one false move could lead to a large-scale confrontation. In February a drill ship contracted by ENI to explore off the coast of Cyprus abandoned its mission after Turkish warships blocked its path.

[AP]

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