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Turkish Ship Leaves to Search for Oil, Gas in Mediterranean


Seismic exploration vessel Piri Reis leaves from Urla port in the Aegean city of Izmir, western Turkey, September 23, 2011.

Seismic exploration vessel Piri Reis leaves from Urla port in the Aegean city of Izmir, western Turkey, September 23, 2011.

A Turkish ship has set sail for the eastern Mediterranean to begin oil and gas exploration in the waters off northern Cyprus.

Television footage showed the research vessel Piri Reis leaving an Aegean port Friday.

The ship's departure comes after Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots of northern Cyprus signed a deal Wednesday to explore for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean. The European Union opposed the deal, which came in response to a similar move by the internationally recognized Greek Cypriots.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Thursday he did not expect tension in the Mediterranean in the short term.

Turkey is the only country in the world that recognizes the Turkish Cypriot north of the island. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 between the Turkish-controlled north and Greek Cypriot south.

The island was split in a Turkish invasion triggered by a Greek-inspired coup. Ongoing reconciliation talks started in 2008 between the Turkish north and the Greek Cypriot south, but have failed to produce a settlement.

On Thursday, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias denounced Turkish naval maneuvers off the southern coast of the island, where a U.S. firm commissioned by Cyprus is carrying out exploratory drilling for oil and gas. Christofias told the U.N. General Assembly the maneuvers are "provocative" and a "real danger" for the region.

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