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Turkey Sends Third Seismic Research Ship to Cyprus Waters

oceanic challenger cyprusTurkey has sent a third ship - Oceanic Challenger - to do seismic research in Cyprus waters and join the Norwegian-flagged Bergen Surveyer and Turkish vessel K. Piri Reis, said the Turkish government in a statement.

All three ships are surveying for undersea gas and oil on behalf of Turkey's Petroleum Corporation in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Oceanic Challenger is set to survey 1100 square kilometres over 40 days.

Meanwhile, six Israeli military helicopters landed in Larnaca Airport with government permission on October 23rd, said Defence Minister Demetris Eliades. The military helicopters are here to do exercises within a new military cooperation between Israel and Cyprus.

Relations between Israel and Turkey have rapidly unravelled over the deaths of nine Turkish nationals who were on board the Mavi Marmara aid ship in May 2010. The ship was on its way to break the Israeli sea blockade on Gaza when it was boarded by Israeli special forces. Israel's refusal to apologise over the activists' deaths triggered Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's fury and decision to suspend military agreements with its former ally.

On the oil-and-gas exploration front, Turkey's activities fly in the face of the government's sovereign right over the island's EEZ as it does not have official permission to conduct research for oil and gas reserves. Ankara disputes this right on the basis that the government does not represent the Turkish Cypriots.

On September 21st , Turkey signed an agreement with the 'TRNC' to delimit maritime borders and explore for hydrocarbons. The 'TRNC' is only recognised by Turkey, and the government promptly said the agreement was illegal. But Turkey blithely ignored the Republic's objections and sent its seismic research ship K. Piri Reis to Cyprus waters a few days after signing the agreement with the Turkish Cypriots.

Fight over sovereign rights

As the only internationally-recognised government on the island, the leadership has gone ahead with a contract with Noble Energy to explore for hydrocarbons in Block 12, an area which borders Israel's gas field Leviathan.

The government's right is upheld by the EU, Greece, US, Israel and Russia, all of which have made statements condemning Turkey's threats towards the island and supporting its right to exploit resources in its sovereign territory.

Defence ministry sources said that if Turkey proceeds with actual exploration for undersea hydrocarbons, the government's approach will be different. For the time being, authorities take the view that the research ships are in international waters and will be treated like any other ship.

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