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EU, Cyprus condemn Turkey's 2nd offshore gas drilling bid

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The European Union on Monday backed Cyprus in condemning a second effort by Turkey to drill for gas in waters off its coast, calling it an "unacceptable escalation" that breaches the sovereignty of the east Mediterranean island nation.

Cyprus said it will defend with all diplomatic and legal means its rights against Turkey's encroachment in waters where the island claims exclusive economic rights. Turkey says it's protecting its rights and those of Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway north of divided Cyprus to the area's hydrocarbon deposits. The Turkish Fatih ship started drilling last month 42 miles off Cyprus' west coast. A second vessel, Yavuz, has now sailed to a target area off the Karpas peninsula on Cyprus' east coast.

EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini again urged Turkey to stop actions that have a "serious negative impact" on EU-Turkey relations and respect Cyprus' sovereignty in line with international law. The EU last month warned Turkey of sanctions and Mogherini repeated that the 28-member block will "respond appropriately" and in "full solidarity" with Cyprus.

Cypriot officials have said they will take legal action against any oil and gas companies supporting Turkish vessels in any repeat attempt to drill for gas. Cyprus has already issued around 20 international arrest warrants against three international companies assisting the Fatih.

Cyprus also urged Ankara to re-engage in peace talks.

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