Turkey will send its fourth ship to the Eastern Mediterranean region to continue its exploration and drilling, Turkey's Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez said on Tuesday.
Donmez reiterated on his Twitter account that the country's exploration and drilling vessels would continue to conduct all exploratory operations unimpeded in the region as planned.
"Turkey has the capability to search, produce and transmit resources in the region to international markets," Donmez said.
The fourth vessel will help with seismic operations alongside the Fatih and Yavuz drilling vessels and the Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa seismic exploration ship.
"The MTA Oruç Reis seismic research ship, which has been conducting seismic surveys in the Black Sea and Marmara since August 2017, will be sent to the region to conduct seismic surveys in the Mediterranean Sea," the Minister said.
Since spring this year, Ankara has sent two drilling vessels -- Fatih and most recently Yavuz -- to the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting the right of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) to the resources of the region.
Athens and the Greek Cypriot administration have opposed the move, threatening to arrest the ships’ crews and enlisting European Union leaders to join their condemnation of Turkey's exploratory activities.
In response, Donmez said that Turkey would continue to take the necessary measures in coordination with the Turkish cabinet in the face of any attempt to ignore the sovereign rights of the all people in the region, including the Turkish Cypriots.
The Turkish-flagged drillship Fatih launched offshore drilling operations this May in an area 75 kilometers (42 nautical miles) off the western coast of the island of Cyprus.
In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.
The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all ending in failure. The latest one, held with the participation of the guarantor countries -- Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. -- ended in 2017 in Switzerland.
The European Council published a final declaration Monday following a meeting of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, which included foreign ministers of its member states. The council said in the statement that in light of "Turkey’s continued and new illegal drilling activities, the Council will suspend negotiations on the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and agree not to hold the Association Council and further meetings of the EU-Turkey high-level dialogues for the time being".
By Murat Temizer