Greece and Cyprus urged the EU on Tuesday to take action against Turkey over gas drilling in Cyprus, as Ankara said it would step up exploration in a move that could further strain ties with Western allies.

A Turkish drilling ship, the Fatih, has been anchored west of Cyprus since early May and recently began drilling.

Turkey’s energy minister Fatih Donmez said on Tuesday that a second ship, the Yavuz, would be dispatched to the area on Thursday.

“We are now at around 3,000 meters deep. We target to drill to around 5,000-5,500 meters deep from sea level,” Donmez told Anadolu news agency. “We have 100-120 days of a schedule for this task. We will have reached our targeted point at the end of July,” he said.

Cyprus and Greece have urged Brussels to take action against Turkey for what they regard as a clear infringement of Cyprus’s sovereign rights. In a phone conversation with European Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Brussels should “unreservedly condemn” Turkey’s actions.

Nicosia also threatened to veto EU enlargement talks if the bloc failed to take action against Ankara. On Tuesday, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said he was confident the EU would take a tougher stance toward Turkey.

Ankara, which does not have diplomatic relations with Cyprus, claims that certain areas in Cyprus’s offshore maritime zone, known as an EEZ, fall under the jurisdiction of Turkey.

The United States and the EU have previously expressed deep concern over Turkey’s plans.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday its relations with the EU had fallen hostage to the Cyprus issue and that the bloc’s recent statements had a completely “Greek perspective”.  Senior Turkish diplomats also said Greeks had not only “crossed the line” but were “playing with fire”.”

European Union foreign ministers on Tuesday urged the 28-member bloc to immediately draw up a list of “appropriate measures” against Turkey for drilling for gas in waters were EU member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.

The ministers “stress the immediate and serious consequences Turkey’s illegal actions are having on the entire fabric of Turkish-EU relations,” the statement said.

Source: Reuters and Associated Press, greekcitytimes.com