Cyprus starts drilling off south of island

Cyprus has started drilling south of the island for natural gas, its government said yesterday, marking a turning point in an escalating row with Turkey over offshore gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

“The drilling process has been started by Noble Energy on the basis of the agreement with the Republic of Cyprus," said deputy government spokesman Christos Christofides. Noble Energy started preparatory work for the drilling prospect on Sunday evening, officials said earlier. Turkey has threatened to give naval escorts to Turkish exploration vessels off Cyprus unless the Greek Cypriot government halted its exploration plans.