Cyprus said Thursday it will go ahead with exploratory drilling for untapped oil and gas reserves off its southern shores despite Turkish demands for it to cease operations.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier the same day that Ankara would take measures against gas exploration by the Greek Cypriot authorities, without elaborating.

Ankara argues that Turkish Cypriots in breakaway northern Cyprus, where Ankara has stationed tens of thousands of troops, have rights to any reserves discovered and called the Nicosia government’s move “unilateral”.

The latest row over the island’s energy search comes afer the collapse last week of UN-brokered Cyprus reunification talks in Switzerland.

The divided island’s energy minister said he was unperturbed by Turkey’s stance.

“We are prepared for various scenarios,” George Lakkotrypis told state radio.

“Our perception is that Turkey will continue to challenge us one way or the other.”

The dispute comes as the West Capella drilling rig is in place to begin test drilling off Cyprus.

A joint venture between French energy giant TOTAL and Italy’s ENI could start the test drilling on Friday.

Results from the drill are expected by mid-September, said the minister.

“There is a sense of relief that everything has started off on the right foot,” said Lakkotrypis.

“Because we can see the geological structure through the seismic charts, if there is a discovery we do not expect it to be large one,” he added.

Source: National News Agency