February 3, 2014 / 5:13 PM / 7 years ago

Turkey expels gas-hunting Total ship licenced by Cyprus

NICOSIA, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Cyprus will complain to the United Nations, it said on Monday, after the Turkish navy expelled a ship looking for gas in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey disputes Cyprus’s rights to a swathe of sea to the island’s south and southeast that are rich in natural gas reserves, adding to long-standing tensions between the neighbours. Turkey lies to Cyprus’s north.

The Turkish military said that one of its ships radioed a Norwegian vessel sailing in what it described as its maritime zone, ordering it to leave the area on Saturday night. There was no further incident.

The ship was carrying out research for Total, one of three hydrocarbon companies licenced by Cyprus to seach for gas, Cypriot authorities said.

“We will continue to monitor the area very closely,” a Turkish official said.

Cyprus says the waters, are part of its own offshore area, where it has awarded research concessions to France’s Total , U.S. company Noble Energy Inc and South Korea’s Kogas.

“This provocative behaviour by Ankara in no way affects plans to exploit the hydrocarbons of our country,” a government spokesman said.

Greek Cypriots run an internationally recognised government which in theory represents the whole island but which in practice ends at a ceasefire line. North Cyprus, where Turkish Cypriots live, is a breakaway state recognised only by Turkey.

Cyprus said the ship incident did not bode well for a rapid resumtion of long-stalled reunification talks.

“I think they should seriously consider whether, under these circumstances, the climate is conducive to starting talks,” said Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides. (Reporting By Michele Kambas; Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun in Turkey; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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