US energy company ExxonMobil said on Friday it plans to conduct test drills for hydrocarbons off the coast of Cyprus later this year despite Turkey warning international firms against exploration.
"Our plan is to drill sometime in the fourth quarter, we haven't got an exact date right now," ExxonMobil's senior vice chairman Neil Chapman told reporters in Nicosia on Friday.
He spoke after talks with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, a day after Turkey advised energy firms not to bid for a new license to explore for oil and gas off Cyprus due to its own claims on the waters.
The Republic of Cyprus on Wednesday invited France's Total, Italy's ENI and ExxonMobil to bid for unclaimed Block 7 in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone.
Chapman said Friday's meeting centred on plans to drill exploration wells in Block 10, which has already been licensed to ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum.
"We have not looked in any detail at Block 7 yet", he added.
Turkey says that parts of some blocks Cyprus has designated for drilling fall inside its own continental shelf. Turkey also argues that any hydrocarbon exploration ignores the rights of Northern Cyprus to the island nation's natural resources.
Statement by Turkey's foreign ministry, saying that Ankara "has never allowed and will never allow" any country or company to conduct "unauthorized research activities" inside waters it considers under its own jurisdiction.
The ministry said the Republic of Cyprus' activities “disregard the inalienable rights to natural resources of the Turkish Cypriot people, who are the co-owners of the island."
"We are concerned that the Greek Cypriot administration has decided to invite international companies to the unilaterally delimited so-called license area by ignoring Turkish Cypriots' rights."