Cyprus has formally opened a bidding process to license offshore oil and gas exploration, despite objections from Turkey.
The first round of the bidding process began Thursday. It involves at least 60,000 square kilometers off the coast of the divided Eastern Mediterranean island.
The Turkish government has criticized the move, saying the process infringes on the rights of Turkish Cypriots. Ankara recently announced plans to search for oil and gas in the region, and has warned other countries against such deals with the internationally-recognized Greek-led Cypriot government.
Last month, Lebanon signed a deal with the Cyprus government to explore for oil and natural gas in the 200 kilometer-wide seabed between the two countries. Egypt signed a similar agreement in 2005.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the island in response to a coup in Nicosia backed by the Greek military government then in power in Athens.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.