A Turkish exploration ship is searching for gas and oil "close to" a drilling zone off the coast of the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, a senior Turkish energy ministry official said Tuesday.
"Our ship is exploring for gas close to the Greek Cypriot zone, under the escort of Turkish naval vessels," the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Turkish ship Piri Reis, which embarked on its controversial mission last week, began its research on Monday under military protection in the eastern Mediterranean.
The official declined to say how long the ship would be staying in the zone.
Regional tensions have risen after the Cyprus government - recognised internationally but not by Turkey - cut a deal with US energy firm Noble, which has already begun exploratory drilling for gas off the southern coast of the disputed island.
In retaliation, Turkey dispatched its own exploration ship to the region after signing an accord with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a statelet recognised only by Ankara, for gas exploration in designated offshore areas.