Repair work for the water pipeline carrying freshwater from Turkey to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) will be completed by Sept. 25, the Turkish vice president said on Thursday.
The nearly 106-kilometre (66-mile) pipeline is one of the most important projects in the world, said Fuat Oktay during his visit to Skandi Seven ship, one of the vessels participating in repair work in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
He said at least five ships have worked nonstop despite the coronavirus outbreak.
Turkey will always stand by the Turkish Cypriots and the TRNC, Oktay added.
Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot government in the north and Greek Cypriot administration in the south since a 1974 military coup aimed at its annexation by Greece, and Turkey's subsequent military intervention to end years of persecution and violence against Turkish Cypriots by ultra-nationalist Greek Cypriots.
Tensions have been high for weeks in the region, as Greece has disputed Turkey's energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey – the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean – has sent out drill ships to explore for energy on its continental shelf, asserting the rights of Turkey and the TRNC in the region.
It has consistently opposed Greece's efforts to declare an exclusive economic zone based on small islands near Turkish shores, trying to hem in Turkish maritime territory to only the Gulf of Antalya.
Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar thanked Ankara for the project and Turkey's determined stance in its support.
Tatar said the project is important for the island's agricultural activities and drinking water needs, adding that the pipeline supplies 75 million cubic meters of freshwater on an annual basis.
It was inaugurated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2015. In January, it suffered a disruption due to severe weather conditions.
Reporting By Zehra Aydin Turapoglu, Isa Toprak and Muhammet Ikbal Arslan
Writing by Fahri Aksut