Greek Cyprus has begun the process of exploratory offshore drilling for gas, its energy chief said on Monday, defying Turkey which has demanded it halt the work and warned to carry out its own drilling off the divided island.
The move has drawn fierce criticism from Turkey which said it would make a continental shelf delimitation agreement with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in case Greek Cypriot administration launched drilling before a settlement was reached to end the 37-year old division of the island.
"It started late last night," said Solon Kassinis, director of Greek Cyprus's energy service. "It's preparatory work, yes, but the procedure for drilling has started."
The process will be completed in 73 days, he told Reuters.
Earlier, another source close to the project said the process had begun but that it might be some time before drilling began at a point where the water is about 1.6 kms deep.
Earlier on Monday Turkey called on the Greek Cypriots to halt gas exploration work immediately or face the prospect of Turkish and Turkish Cypriot energy exploration in the Mediterranean.
Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders have been negotiating on a solution to Cyprus problem in a bid to reunify the island since 2008.
The island has been divided since 1974 when an Athens-backed Greek Cypriot military coup on the island led to Turkey's intervention based on its rights stemming from the Treaty of Guarantee.
AgenciesLast Mod: 19 Eylül 2011, 17:09