EU lashes out at Turkey for new drilling off Cyprus

European bloc accuses Ankara of "escalating" tensions, reiterates its call on Turkey to show restraint, refrain from drilling for gas off Cyprus.

BRUSSELS - The EU on Friday fired a fresh broadside at Turkey in a rumbling dispute over drilling for gas off Cyprus, accusing Ankara of "escalating" tensions.

The bloc has repeatedly urged Turkey to end its energy exploration off the island, saying the drilling is illegal because it infringes on EU member Cyprus's exclusive economic zone.

Earlier this year the EU imposed an asset freeze and entry ban on two Turkish citizens involved in the operations, but Ankara has vowed to defy the criticism.

"We deplore that Turkey has not yet responded to the European Union's repeated calls to cease such activities and reiterate our call on Turkey to show restraint, refrain from such actions, and respect the sovereignty and sovereign rights of Cyprus," the bloc's 27 foreign ministers said in a joint statement after talks.

The ministers welcomed Cypriot efforts towards talks on the dispute but said that "recent escalating actions by Turkey regrettably go in the opposite direction".

The Turkish ship Yavuz has been drilling off Cyprus since late last month, and Ankara's energy minister Fatih Donmez on Thursday said the work would not stop.

"Turkey is pressing ahead with its drilling and seismic activities... in the eastern Mediterranean without any pausing," Donmez told Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency on Thursday.

Rich gas deposits have been found in the seabed in waters claimed by both Cyprus and Turkey.

Turkey insists its oil drilling is in accordance with international law and has argued that its unrecognised north Cypriot ally should have a share in earnings.