Turkey will resolutely continue the exploration of hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Thursday evening during a news conference with the Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) Ersin Tatar in Ankara.
"No project ignoring Turkey or the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus can be realized in Eastern Mediterranean," Erdoğan warned.
"We will continue to defend the rights of Turkish Cypriots with the same dedication," Erdoğan said, adding that problems in the region are caused by the "irreconcilable attitudes of the Greek Cypriots."
Regarding the unification of the Cyprus island, Prime Minister Tatar underlined the importance of Turkey's involvement.
"Turkey must remain a guarantor state in the event of an agreement on the unification of the island of Cyprus," he said, adding: "Turkish Cypriots are deeply content with Turkey's dedicated stance on a solution."
Tatar is in Turkey for his first official visit to the country upon the invitation of Erdoğan.
Several high-level officials from the TRNC are accompanying Tatar during his trip.
The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup took place after decades of violence against the island's Turkish community and Ankara's intervention as a guarantor power. It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including the latest initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the U.K. that collapsed in 2017.
Turkey's first seismic vessel, the Barbaros Hayrettin, bought from Norway in 2013, has been carrying out exploration in the Mediterranean since April 2017.
The Turkish-flagged drillship Fatih launched its offshore drilling operations on May 3 in an area located 75 kilometers off the western coast of Cyprus. The area falls entirely within the Turkish continental shelf registered with the U.N. and in permit licenses that the Turkish government in previous years granted to Turkish Petroleum, the country's national oil company. The second drillship Yavuz, a twin vessel of the Fatih, is located on the west of the island off Karpas.
Turkey's continental shelf rights lay in the area to the west of 32 degrees 16 minutes 18 seconds east longitude. The outer limits of the Turkish continental shelf in the above-mentioned maritime areas follow the median line between the Turkish and Egyptian coastlines to a point to be determined in the west of 28 degrees 00 minutes 00 seconds east longitude.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying Turkish Cypriots also have rights to the resources in the area. The unilaterally declared exclusive economic zone of the Greek Cypriot administration violates part of Turkey's shelf, particularly in Blocks 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7.