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Cyprus Has No Plan to Put Army on Alert, Defense Ministry Says

Cyprus denied a report it will keep armed forces on alert while drilling for oil in its offshore territory after Turkey threatened to send warships to the area.

“We completely deny this report,” Aliki Stylianou, a spokeswoman at the Nicosia-based Ministry of Defense said in a telephone interview today.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said that Cyprus’s intentions “would be a risky move,” web-based Hurriyet Daily News reported Sept. 6, citing an interview to television channel CNNTurk. As Cyprus’s boundaries remained undetermined, the island’s government should refrain from conducting oil exploration in its offshore territory, Yildiz said, according to the newspaper.

Cyprus is divided after Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in 1974 in response to a coup inspired by the military junta then in power in Greece. The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities resumed reunification talks in 2009 after a UN sponsored plan to reunite the island was rejected by Greek Cypriots.

Greece’s Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos said today that his country, which is also a NATO-member like Turkey, will support Cyprus and any act of aggression will be deemed as a move against Greece, according to the Cyprus News Agency.

Praxoula Antoniadou, the east Mediterranean island’s minister of commerce, industry and tourism also responsible for energy affairs, said in a telephone interview on Sept. 7 that according to an existing schedule Cyprus will go ahead with drilling by the beginning of October.

U.S. based Noble Energy Inc. which has the license to carry out exploration in Cyprus’s Block 12 is working with Israel’s Delek Group Ltd., which proposed the construction of a natural gas pipeline to Cyprus. The two companies are partners in exploiting Israel’s offshore gas findings.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today that his country plans to increase its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean to prevent a repeat of the attack by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound aid ship last year.

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