ISTANBUL, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Turkey is sending an oil and gas drilling ship to waters off southern Cyprus where Greek Cypriot authorities have already awarded exploration rights to Italian and French companies, according to Turkish statements on Thursday.
The move marks the first time Turkey and Cyprus, which have competing claims in the eastern Mediterranean, will be looking for hydrocarbons in the same exploration block.
The drilling ship Yavuz is on its way to a new well called Guzelyurt-1, Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez tweeted.
Donmez did not disclose the location of the well, but in a separate shipping advisory Turkey released the coordinates within which the drilling ship will be operating.
The coordinates, about 90 km (56 miles) southwest of the port of Limassol, fall within an oil and gas exploration block which Cyprus has awarded to Eni and Total.
The advisory says drilling operations will take place between Oct. 19 and Jan. 20th.
Refinitiv ship tracking data showed the Yavuz heading south around the western side of the island on Thursday.
Asked about the movements of the vessel, which Nicosia says is within its exclusive economic zone, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said: “We are aware of this and are taking all indicative measures based on international law.”
Turkey has already drilled two wells in waters to the east and west of the island, triggering strong protests from Nicosia and the European Union.
Turkey says some of the areas where Cyprus is exploring are either on its own continental shelf, or in zones where Turkish Cypriots have equal rights over any finds with Greek Cypriots.
Nicosia rejects the claim, saying that assertion is not only inconsistent with international law, but that Turkey would not accept any international dispute settlement mechanism where its claims could be put to the test. (Reporting by Omer Berberoglu, Michele Kambas and Can Sezer; Editing by Giles Elgood)