Cyprus, Egypt, Greece say gas search in sea won't be stopped

Cypriot Parliamentary Speaker Demetris Syllouris, center, with his counterparts Ali Abdel-Aal of Egypt, right, and Nikos Voutsis of Greece, left, talk during a press conference in the parliament house in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. Syllouris, Abdel-Aal and Voutsis agreed on strengthening cooperation especially in the fields of energy, tourism, education and culture. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The speaker of Egypt's parliament appeared to push back Monday at Turkey's opposition to offshore drilling operations that Turkey isn't part of, saying cooperation between Egypt, Cyprus and Greece sent a message to any countries that tried to stop them.

Egypt's Ali Abdel-Aal didn't specifically mention Turkey during a trilateral meeting with the parliament speakers of Greece and Cyprus in Nicosia. But the context for his remarks in the capital of Cyprus, an island nation divided into ethnically Turkish and Greek sides, was clear.

"This meeting sends a great message to all countries that try to prevent eastern Mediterranean countries from using their natural resources in the Mediterranean Sea," Abdel-Aal said.

Host speaker Demetris Syllouris was more direct. He accused Turkey of violating international law by using "threats and provocations" to make Cyprus' offshore exploration areas its own, including by dispatching a vessel to perform seismic surveys off Cyprus.

Italy's Eni, France's Total and ExxonMobil are involved in Cyprus' search for gas off its southern coast.

Turkey insists the exploration infringes on its rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots to east Mediterranean hydrocarbon reserves. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last month that Turkey planned to send a ship to join the search for gas around Cyprus.

The Greek Cypriot-led government has said it is exercising a sovereign right and that any future gas proceeds would be shared equitably if deal to reunify the island is reached with the breakaway Turkish Cypriots.

Cyprus and Egypt already have an agreement for an envisioned pipeline to convey Cypriot gas to processing plants in Egypt.

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Sam Magdy in Cairo contributed.

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