Israel expressed its “full support and solidarity” with Cyprus on Wednesday in the wake of Turkish natural gas drilling operations off the coast of Cyprus, which Nicosia claims violate its sovereignty.
“Israel follows with serious concern recent steps taken by Turkey in the waters off Cyprus’ northeast coast and reiterates its full support and solidarity with Cyprus in exercising its sovereign rights in its maritime areas and its opposition to any attempt to violate those rights,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon wrote on Twitter.
The Israeli response to drilling by Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean in waters Cyprus says are inside its Exclusive Economic Zone comes just a day after the U.S. State Department urged Turkey to halt the project, and two days after Cyprus objected to a Turkish ship dropping anchor in the area.
Turkey and Cyprus dispute claims to this portion of the Mediterranean, which is believed to be rich in natural gas deposits. Turkey has allegedly sent two ships to search in the area—the Fatih in May and the Yavuz last month.
“The drilling activities of our ship Yavuz are based on legal and legitimate grounds,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that “We reject the statement made by Greek Foreign Ministry and EU officials that deem our country’s activities illegal.”
Cyprus, which has switched hands between the Greek, Roman, Ottoman and British empires over the centuries, was partially occupied by Turkey after a 1974 Greek coup which attempted to unite the island with Greece.
Cyprus has argued that while Turkey occupies the northern part of the island, the waters off its coast remain its exclusively, with no connection to Turkey.
The EU’s European Council said it would respond “in full solidarity with Cyprus” in light of Turkey’s ongoing explorations, and would take “appropriate measures.”
Egypt has also voiced protest against the Turkish drilling.