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      Israel's Gas Find Spurs Turkey to Mark Sea Borders Near Cyprus

      After Israel began drilling in the Tamar gas fields near Cyprus, Turkey decides to do the same in northern Cyprus, marks deep sea lines.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 9/22/2011, 8:25 AM

      The Turkish northern half of Cyprus marked its marine borders with Turkey and will issue licenses for offshore oil and gas drilling, state media reported Wednesday, in another response to Israeli offshore gas finds.

      According to the report on the Turkish state-run TRT, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Dervis Eroglu, the president of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state, signed a deal at the UN General Assembly in New York paving the way for offshore drilling.

      The move comes in response to a similar move by the Greek Cypriot half of the island.

      On Monday, Israel began exploratory drilling in Block 12 of the Tamar natural gas field, 50 miles off the Haifa coast. “Block 12” is an area that extends into Cypriot territorial waters. The work is being done by Noble Energy], which owns the Tamar field together with Delek Group, Delek Drilling and Avner Oil and Gas.

      This prompted strong protests from Turkey, which is already in a diplomatic row with Israel and does not recognize the Greek Cypriot administration.

      “We are protesting Greek Cypriots’ irresponsible, provocative and unilateral step,” TRT quoted Erdogan as saying on Wednesday.

      He said the Turkish Cypriot state would issue licenses for oil and gas search in the Mediterranean, the station reported, but did not say when.

      Cyprus’ government condemned the Turkish move, and spokesman Stefanos Stefanou was quoted by The Associated Press as saying, “Turkey has committed yet another unlawful act, signing an agreement with an illegal entity.”

      “With this unlawful act, Turkey is trying to prevent the Cyprus republic from exercising a self-evident right which is recognized by the entire international community,” he added. “The international community is asking Turkey to respect international law. Unfortunately, Turkey continues to be in violation of the law.”

      Lebanon has also claimed rights to the gas find and attempted to stop Israeli exploration.