Italian, Turkish Defence Ministers meet amid military blockade dispute

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Brussels, Feb 15 (IANS/AKI) Italy’s Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti met her Turkish counterpart Nurettin Canikli here on Thursday amid a bilateral row over the blockade by warships in the Mediterranean of a drill ship owned by Italian energy giant Eni.

“Bilateral meeting between Roberta Pinotti and Nurettin Canikli at NATO Defence Ministerial in Brussels,” Italy’s Defence Ministry tweeted.

Pinotti did not brief journalists on the meeting. It was her second this week with Canikli, who she met for talks on the dispute in Rome on Tuesday during a summit of 15 Defence Ministers from the US-led global coalition fighting the Islamic State jihadist group.

Pinotti said on Tuesday that Italy is using “bilateral” and “diplomatic” channels to end the standoff which began when Turkish military vessels blocked the Eni drillship on Friday off the southwest coast of Cyprus and ordered it not to continue its journey to an area off the southeast coast of the island to explore for natural gas.

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Italy’s Foreign Affairs minister Angelino Alfano held talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday in Kuwait as part of the diplomatic efforts to end the obstruction of the Eni drill ship.

Turkey, which does not have diplomatic relations with Cyprus, claims that part of Cyprus’s offshore maritime zone falls within the jurisdiction of Turkey or of Turkish Cypriots.

The contested prospect is Block 3 of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, Eni said, adding that it will not move the drill ship until the dispute is resolved.

–IANS/AKI

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