Turkey warns will shun companies involved in Cyprus oil, gas drilling

Turkey warned Saturday it would shun international companies involved in oil and gas drilling off the shores of the divided island of Cyprus.

"As it was repeated several times... the companies which will cooperate with the Greek Cypriot Administration will be excluded from new energy projects in Turkey in the future," the foreign ministry said in a written statement.

Turkey's warning came after Cyprus on Tuesday approved licenses for drilling to exploit offshore oil and gas deposits and said it would negotiate the terms of a partnership with Italy's ENI, South Korea's Kogas, France's Total and Russia's Novatek for energy exploration off the island.

The Turkish foreign ministry called on the countries and oil companies in question "to act with common sense," warning them not to operate in disputed waters off Cyprus and to withdraw from the tender.

Turkey has protested strongly against the Cypriot government's search for offshore oil and gas, branding it illegal and retaliating by beginning its own exploratory drilling in the breakaway north.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece.

Turkey only recognises the breakaway state in the north and not the government of the Republic of Cyprus, which became an EU member in 2004.

The Turkish foreign ministry said Saturday that the Turks of Cyprus have equal rights in exploiting the island's energy resources, warning that Greek Cypriot plans to press ahead with "unilateral, provocative actions were unacceptable" for Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz also threatened Italian energy company ENI not to go ahead with drilling plans off Cyprus.

"We will rethink its investments in Turkey if ENI is involved in (such plans)," said Yildiz, in remarks carried by daily newspaper Hurriyet.

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