ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey has sent warships to international waters off Cyprus amid a growing row over oil and gas exploration deals the island’s internationally recognised government signed with Egypt and Lebanon, the NTV news channel reported.
Turkish officials were not immediately available for comment.
NTV did not say how many ships had been sent to the Eastern Mediterranean, but added that they would stay there for a while.
The move follows a harsh warning by Ankara for Egypt and Lebanon to delay the deals which it said infringed the rights of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot statelet on the divided island.
“Turkey is determined to protect its rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and will not allow attempts that would erode them,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
The Cyprus government signed an agreement with Lebanon on January 17 for the delineation of an undersea border to facilitate future oil and gas exploration.
Similar accords were struck with Egypt last year.
Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974, when Turkey seized its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered Greek Cypriot coup in Nicosia aimed at uniting the island with Greece.