Cyprus says will continue East Med gas exploration, rebuffs Turkey

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NICOSIA, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Cyprus on Friday rebuffed claims it was violating Turkey's continental shelf by awarding an exploration licence in the Mediterranean to Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) and Qatar Petroleum [RIC:RIC:QATPE.UL], saying it was within its sovereign rights.

Turkey on Thursday accused Cyprus of violating its continental shelf by awarding an exploration licence to the two companies, saying it will not allow unauthorised exploration in its jurisdiction. read more

For decades, Turkey has been at odds with Greece and Cyprus over competing territorial claims in the east Mediterranean, air space, energy, the status of some islands in the Aegean, and the ethnically-split island of Cyprus.

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Cyprus's cabinet on Thursday said it would grant a licence to Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum for hydrocarbon exploration in a section of Cyprus' declared exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which lies south, south-west of the island.

The island lies just south of Turkey.

Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the move violated its continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus said the area in question was part of the island's continental shelf.

"Turkey deliberately fails, once again, to comply with International Law, by making groundless claims and disregarding the position of the international community in full support of the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus in its own .. continental shelf," Cyprus' foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The Republic of Cyprus will resolutely continue its policy in the field of hydrocarbons, in full respect of International and European Law."

Cyprus was split by a 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Ankara does not have diplomatic relations with an internationally-recognised Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia, but supports a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in north Cyprus.

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Reporting By Michele Kambas; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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