Turkish drillship Yavuz drillship seen from the Karpaz coast of the northern part of Cyprus / © AFP
Cyprus on Sunday accused Turkey of "piracy" after Ankara announced new plans to drill for oil and gas in the divided island’s maritime zone, despite the threat of EU sanctions.
“Turkey is turning into a pirate state in the eastern Mediterranean,” the presidency said in a statement.
“Turkey insists on going down the path of international illegality it has chosen,” it said.
Ankara was “repeatedly ignoring calls by the international community, especially the European Union, to terminate its illegal activities" inside Cypriot waters.
Ankara announced Friday the drillship Yavuz would return to waters off Cyprus for drilling activities, a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Turkey would start gas exploration "as soon as possible".
The latest incursion into Cypriot waters was in block 8, licensed by Cyprus to energy giants Total of France and Italy’s Eni, the president's office said.
Last year, Turkey sent two drillships to search for oil and gas off Cyprus.
This prompted EU leaders to warn Turkey that it would impose “targeted and appropriate” sanctions if it did not stop its “illegal activities”.
The island has been divided between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and the northern third under Turkish control since 1974, after Ankara's troops occupied the area in response to a coup sponsored by the Greek military junta.
Ankara says its actions abide by international law and that it is drilling inside its continental shelf.
Turkey opposes unilateral moves of exploration activities by EU member Cyprus off the Mediterranean and says Turkish Cypriots have rights to a share of the island's offshore resources.
Total and Italy's ENI are heavily involved in exploring for oil and gas off Cyprus as is ExxonMobil of the US.
Nicosia has gone ahead with expanding its energy search at a time when Ankara is opposed to it while there is no political solution for Cyprus.