Amazed by Istanbul's vibrancy and energy, the United States' International Trade Undersecretary Francisco Sanchez praised Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan saying he was "like a rock star" during his tour of the Arab Spring countries.

"I have to say there is energy in this country that can be seen at all hours of the day. One of the defining memories for me will be coming back to my hotel somewhat late for an American: at about 1:45 a.m. There was traffic everywhere, stores were open everywhere, small streets, bars were packed and one of the things that I will never forget is that one of the stores, a beauty salon, where people were getting their hair done at 1:45 a.m. in the morning," Sanchez told Hürriyet in an interview during his visit to Istanbul to launch the Turkey-U.S. Business Council.

"I thought this city puts New York to shame in terms of vibrancy, it is an exciting place. I finished the weekend feeling this is the right place to be," he said.

There are tremendous opportunities within the region for both countries, where U.S. and Turkish companies could invest through their partnership, according to Sanchez. Cooperation could even be beyond this region, as Turkey is increasingly home to world-class companies that can compete not only in the Mideast, but also in the U.S., Europe and Latin America, he said.

Turkish and U.S. businesses already started negotiations on a number of areas; the energy sector received special attention, according to the top U.S. official.

"The U.S. has important technology and know-how, so we think there are great opportunities in the areas of cooperation in the energy sector," Sanchez said, reminding that Turkey would need to generate much more energy to meet its aim of becoming one of the top 10economies in the world by 2023.

As a follow-up to the council's initial meeting, he said he would be leading a trade mission to Turkey in December to promote opportunities for partnerships among firms in both countries and offer support to Turkey's energy sector.

The U.S. can play an important role in the field of civil nuclear energy in Turkey, Sanchez said.

"I think there is great interest from U.S. companies. There are concerns and challenges that we need to confront: any company in the civil nuclear space has concerns about proper regulatory instructions, liability issues," he said. "These apply to the issues of U.S. companies too, but the interest to invest in Turkey is there."

Turkey has demonstrated a lot of success in terms of macroeconomic policies and economic stability, Sanchez said. "You have also shown political stability, an important stage for business," he said, adding that he believed Turkey was moving in the right direction to attract business.

Turkey ranks among the fastest growing economies in the world. The U.S., meanwhile, is the world's largest economy, which implies both countries could stand to benefit if they created policies and an environment that allowed commerce to flow between them, Sanchez said.

Obama Meets With Erdoğan After Ankara Bomb Blast

U.S. President Barack Obama offered his condolences over a bomb blast in Ankara Tuesday, as he sat down with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a key Middle East ally.

Obama met Erdoğan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, on a day when an attack by suspected members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in the Turkish capital killed three people and injured at least 15.

The president extended "deep condolences for the loss of life in the explosion in Ankara," adding that the attack "reminds us that terrorism exists in many parts of the world."

Three people were killed and 15 were injured in the bomb blast, the Turkish Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin told Turkish television. Şahin said there was a "high possibility that it was a terrorist attack," using the government's shorthand for attacks by the PKK.

Erdoğan earlier warned against a rush to judgment, saying there had been no information that the incident was a terrorist attack. Obama also praised Turkey as "a NATO ally and a great friend and partner on NATO issues" and thanked Erdoğan for "all the work in Afghanistan."

Washington regards Turkey as one of its most important allies and Obama has spent considerable time engaging Erdoğan in his two-and-a-half years in office and paid a visit to Ankara and Istanbul in 2009.

In recent months, the Obama administration has been alarmed at the estrangement between Turkey and its closest Middle East ally, Israel, over an Israeli raid on a flotilla bound for Gaza that killed nine Turks.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday urged Turkey to defuse tension and repair strategic ties with Israel. In her meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in New York, Clinton "made clear that this is not a time when we need more tension, more volatility in the region," a senior U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.

The United States has offered to mediate an end to the Israeli-Turkish crisis -- which analysts said could also harm ties between NATO allies Washington and Ankara -- but Turkey has rejected the U.S. offer.

Earlier this month, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and froze military ties and defense trade deals. Ties strained even further when Erdoğan threatened to send warships to escort any Turkish vessels trying to reach Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Turkey has also been crucial to the evolving U.S. stance on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on popular protests, and on Libya. Erdoğan initially took a softer line than Washington on Syria's crackdown, but last week warned al-Assad the era of oppressive dictators had past.

Obama, Erdoğan Seek Common Ground on Middle East

President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan sought common ground on counterterrorism and Middle East policy on Tuesday, even as Washington pressed Ankara to ease tensions with close U.S. ally Israel.

Their talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly came as a showdown loomed this week over Palestinian statehood at the world body, another source of rising tensions in a region in political upheaval. Washington has watched with concern as NATO ally Turkey's once-friendly ties with Israel have deteriorated rapidly over Israel's 2010 killing of Turkish activists in a Gaza-bound aid convoy. The crisis has underscored Israel's growing isolation and the new limits of US influence in the Middle East.

"The president underscored his interest in seeing a resolution of that issue between those two countries and encouraged continuing work toward that end," White House adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall told reporters after the meeting, saying Obama also emphasized the need to calm tensions throughout the region.

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said Obama would make the same points to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he meets him on Wednesday.

The two leaders also discussed Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad's unrelenting crackdown on anti-government protests has alarmed neighboring Turkey and led to U.S. calls he step aside. Obama and Erdoğan agreed on the need to increase pressure on al-Assad and agreed to consult on possible further steps that "could include sanctions, political pressure, other measures," Rhodes said.

Obama and Erdoğan, in their public comments to reporters, focused on the deadly attacks in Turkey on Tuesday that they agreed underscored the need for cooperation on counterterrorism.

"This reminds us that terrorism exists in many parts of the world, and Turkey and the United States are going to be strong partners in preventing terrorism," Obama said.

An explosion from a suspected car bomb ripped through a street in the Turkish capital, Ankara, near a neighborhood housing government buildings, killing three people. Also on Tuesday, the terrorist Kurdistan Workers" Party, or PKK, attacked a police college in southeastern Turkey, killing four people in a passing vehicle, broadcaster CNN Turk reported on its website.

Erdoğan said the U.S. and Turkey needed to "work together in planning, use technology so that we can continue to take more steps in trying to fight against terrorism."

Turkey is in talks with the U.S. to provide a base for a fleet of U.S. Predator drones now stationed in Iraq. It is reported to want surveillance drones to carry out operations against Kurdish separatist rebels based in northern Iraq.

The Obama administration is seeking to preserve close ties with Turkey, an increasingly assertive economic and military power in the region that has become a champion of democracy movements roiling the Arab world.

Ankara backed efforts that led to the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and aids U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan, and plays a crucial role in neighboring Iraq.

Obama praised Erdoğan for "great leadership" in promoting democracy in the region. But problems remain. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Turkey on Monday not to do anything to worsen its relationship with Israel.

Israeli-Turkish relations have spiraled downward in recent weeks with the release of a UN report on the 2010 flotilla raid in which Israeli commandos raid killed nine Turkish activists, and Israel's refusal to apologize to Ankara.

Erdoğan's government has expelled Israel's envoy, frozen military cooperation and warned that the Turkish navy could escort future aid flotillas -- raising the prospect of confrontation between Turkey and the Jewish state. Erdoğan has also kept up a stream of harsh rhetoric against Israel, using a tour of Arab states last week to support a Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN and chided Israel as a spoiled client of the West.

Four Civilians Die in PKK Attack in Southeast Turkey

Alleged members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, attacked a civilian vehicle near a police college in the southeastern province of Siirt on Tuesday, killing four women, the Doğan News Agency, or DHA, reported.

One PKK militant was killed in a subsequent firefight between the police and the militants. Two other civilians were wounded in the attack. The militants attacked a civilian vehicle, mistaking it for an undercover police vehicle, the report on Hürriyet daily Web site said, in which six women were headed to a wedding.

Militants ambushed the vehicle 100 meters away from the police college, spraying it with machine gun fire and launching a rocket at it. Police officers on duty at the police college responded to the attack and a clash between the militants erupted. Special police forces were deployed in the area to stop the militants from escaping under cover of darkness.

One PKK militant was killed in the firefight while the rest of the assailants escaped. Security forces launched an operation to apprehend the escaped PKK members, while checkpoints were deployed at roads leading to Siirt.

The women who were injured in the PKK attack were rescued from the wrecked car and taken to Siirt State Hospital, where Zeynep Evin, Nergis Evin, Kevser Çekin and Nurcan Olgaç died due to their injuries, while Gülcan Olgaç and Nuran Evin remained in critical condition.

The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

No Cyprus Bluff: Drilling Ship on its Way to Turkey

A Norwegian ship slated to conduct seismic surveys in Mediterranean waters made its way to Turkey on Tuesday as Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Turkey's plans to counter a Greek Cypriot offshore-drilling drive were "no bluff."

"The ship is on its way. It has set sail from Norway," an Energy Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News on Tuesday, a day after Greek Cyprus said it had begun drilling despite Turkish warnings in an escalating row over ownership of natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey's warnings that its warships and air force would escort the exploration vessels "are no bluff," Arınç said. "Turkey has rights and capabilities under international law. The whole world should know that we will in no way hesitate to use them."

Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said Tuesday that "Turkey has now moved into action." He added that a continental shelf delimitation accord, to be signed soon with northern Cyprus, would determine the maritime boundaries in which the Turkish Petroleum Corporation, or TPAO, would conduct its own research, in cooperation with a Norwegian company. In a show of force, Turkish navy and air forces would also escort TPAO's exploration vessels.

The drilling row has become heightened amid Turkey's already simmering crisis with Israel, which, according to Greek Cypriot media reports, sent unmanned surveillance aircraft to fly over the drilling operation in a gesture of solidarity with Greek Cyprus.

The continental shelf accord, which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said might be signed this week, will determine the areas in which TPAO can carry out oil and gas exploration activities. The Energy Ministry official said the accord would provide the legal basis for drilling, but seismic studies could go ahead without it.

In Nicosia, Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister İrsen Küçük vowed "to make every effort and show every kind of resistance to protect our rights and interests" and announced the formation of a special commission to monitor developments.

The Greek Cypriot drilling plan flouts principles set by the United Nations in the peace negotiations for the divided island and is threatening to torpedo the prospect of a settlement, Küçük said in a written statement.

Eager to defuse the row, the European Union and the United States have launched diplomatic efforts urging the parties to show restraint. Richard Morningstar, the special envoy of the U.S. Secretary of State for Eurasian Energy, discussed the issue with EU officials last week, an EU source said in Brussels.

The drilling issue also will dominate talks between EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu when the two meet late Tuesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York. The EU source said Ashton would stress that Turkey's high-key rhetoric and threats of military response are only making the situation worse, and will urge both sides to get the focus back on the reunification talks.

In New York for the UN General Assembly, Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias protested Turkey's attitude when he met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday evening, according to Greek Cypriot media.

"The secretary-general said nothing about suspending or postponing the exploration work and I don't think he will do so afterward," Christofias said after the meeting, vowing that drilling would continue.

The exploratory drilling work is likely to last about two and a half months, Greek Cypriot deputy government spokesman Christos Christofides said Tuesday, adding that a second round of exploration would follow, lasting several months, so as to "give a clear picture on the size and the quality of the deposit."

U.S. Urges Turkey to Change Israel, Cyprus Stances

The United States has urged Turkey to forge better ties with Israel and Greek Cyprus as it backed the latter's right to explore for gas and oil in the eastern Mediterranean. And U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Turkey to "keep the door open" to better ties with Israel, seeking to prevent relations between the two U.S. allies from worsening.

A senior U.S. official said Clinton had encouraged Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to repair the badly strained relations and play a positive role in resolving the Palestinian issue in the United Nations General Assembly that opens Wednesday.

"The secretary made clear that this is not a time when we need more tension, more volatility in the region," said a second official, apparently referring to deteriorating Israeli ties with Egypt and Jordan and tensions with the Palestinians.

In her talks with Davutoğlu, Clinton also made known the U.S. position on Greek Cyprus's energy exploration projects, a senior U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. Washington "supports [Greek] Cyprus's right to explore for energy," and "doesn't believe that should undermine or interfere with the talks" to resolve the Cyprus problem, the official said.

The United States "agrees with all of those who believe that the best way to sort out the question of energy and economic development is through a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem," the official said. Turkey said it will start its own oil and gas drilling in the Mediterranean after Greek Cyprus said it began gas drilling in the eastern Mediterranean on Sunday.

A bipartisan group of senators has meanwhile urged U.S. President Barack Obama to "send a strong message that the U.S. will forever remain committed to Israel's security." In their joint letter to Obama, the senators wrote: "It appears that Turkey is shifting to a policy of confrontation, if not hostility, toward our allies in Israel and we urge you to mount a diplomatic offensive to reverse this course."

Turkey has suspended military ties with Israel, expelled top Israeli diplomats and threatened additional actions unless Israel apologizes for last year's raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, which killed nine Turkish citizens. Israel has stopped short of an apology, only expressing its regret for the incident.

Top German Politicians Want Turkey to Mend Ties with Israel

European Union and German officials have voiced concern over Turkey's diplomatic crisis with Israel and urged the one-time allies to mend fences.

"We want to see Turkey and Israel improve their bilateral relations," Giles Portman, a Turkey adviser at the EU's external action service, told a group of journalists in Brussels on Tuesday. "We want Turkey to play a role in the Middle East peace process. Turkey has a capability for that if it has relations with Israel," he said.

In Berlin, a senior German politician meanwhile slammed Turkey's rhetoric against Israel, saying it resembled that of "Arab dictators," and urged reconciliation.

"This attitude [of Turkey] may appear to generate support in the Arab world. However, anti-Israel emotions have been used by Arab dictators for a long time and it's questionable if that's worked out," Ruprecht Polenz, the chairman of the German parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission, said late Monday.

"Israel and Turkey's worsening relations are of serious concern for us," he said, adding that Germany felt as if "two of its friends were fighting." In comments on Turkey's faltering accession talks with the EU, Polenz urged Ankara to review its position on Cyprus and implement the Ankara Protocol to allow Greek Cypriot vessels to use Turkish ports.

"Why doesn't Turkey practice its zero problem policy on Cyprus?" he asked, questioning Turkey's military presence in northern Cyprus with a reference to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's "zero problems with neighbors" policy.

Turkey, U.S. Set to Build Joint Industrial Zones

Members of the Turkey-U.S. Business Council announced plans Monday evening to establish joint industrial zones in both countries as well as in other areas following a meeting in Istanbul.

"These joint industrial zones will contribute to the economies of both countries," Ahmet Yakıcı, undersecretary for Turkey's Economy Ministry, told a press conference held to announce the council's formation.

Yakıcı said the zones would be mostly focused on manufacturing food and health products, but he did not outline the timing of the project or note where the zones would be established. Yakıcı also said they would work to bring ties with the United States to the desired level.

"The new business council we have established with the U.S. will contribute to our bilateral trade relations and to the trade of third countries," he said.

"We want to increase our trade volume of $15 billion with Turkey by three-fold in the near future," said Francisco Sanchez, the U.S. undersecretary of commerce for international trade.

Turkey Expresses Regret of News Reports in Syrian Press

Turkey has expressed its regret over some news reports in the Syrian state-run news agency SANA and some dailies about the camps in Turkey.

In a statement late Tuesday, Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said news reports claiming that the camps in Turkey turned into centers of isolation, rape and torture "are nothing but dark propaganda, lies and evil."

"Syrian people in those camps have taken shelter in Turkey because of their bad experiences and their fears in their own country. It is the responsibility of the Syrian government to eliminate reasons which led people to leave their own country," the statement said. "Turkey has mobilized all its capabilities to ensure Syrian people's security in the camps. Authorities in the camps in the southern Turkish province of Hatay fulfil their responsibilities with a great devotion. United Nations and Syrian Red Crescent officials have already admitted it."

"Under the principle of rule of law, Turkish authorities will investigate allegations by the Syrian state-run news agency. Turkey has launched an official initiative at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We asked information about people mentioned in the news reports. We hope that Syrian authorities will display the same sensitivity about allegations regarding recent developments in Syria," the Ministry added.

Turkey Condemns Killing of Rabbani

Turkey has condemned the killing of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was also the head of a council tasked with trying to negotiate a political end to the war.

Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed profound sorrow over Rabbani's death in a bomb attack in his house in Kabul earlier on Tuesday, it said in a statement.

"We condemn this heinous attack targeting efforts to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan," the Ministry said and offered the Turkish people's condolences to the relatives of Rabbani.

A suicide bomber detonated a bomb hidden in his turban in Rabbani's house in Kabul on Tuesday. The attack dealt a harsh blow to efforts at ending a decade of war in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai cut short a visit to the United States and called on Afghans to remain unified.

PKK Talks are 'Political Negotiations,' CHP Says

Secret talks between Turkey's National Intelligence Organization, or MİT, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, are nothing more than "political negotiations," according to the country's main opposition.

"What has been done is the launch of political negotiations with the terror organization. This is the point where the prime minister was caught red-handed," Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said at a press conference Tuesday, accusing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of deceiving the people.

The CHP chief's comments come in the wake of the recent leakage of taped discussions between MİT officials and PKK members in Oslo. Erdoğan said the meetings were between the state and the PKK and accused the opposition of not being aware of the difference between the state and government.

Political Issues

"The matters that were discussed with the terror organization are all political issues. These are beyond the responsibility of MİT," Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that MİT chief Hakan Fidan, who was the one directing the meetings, had been commissioned by Erdoğan to undertake this responsibility.

"Now I am asking Mr. Erdoğan: Do you share 95 percent of the same opinion with Abdullah Öcalan [the imprisoned leader of the PKK]? Did you order to the military to stop operations [against the PKK]?"

Recalling that as a result of these meetings, the PKK announced a unilateral truce for more than a year just before the general elections, Kılıçdaroğlu said Erdoğan's sole purpose was to run for elections in a terror-free climate.

"I thus call this the Erdoğan-PKK negotiations and nothing else," the CHP chief said.

The main opposition leader also slammed the government over the missile radar base to be located in eastern Turkey as part of NATO's defense shield program.

"The prime minister is not telling the truth about the radar base," Kılıçdaroğlu said. "He says the base is already there and now it will just be active. But the base was there in the Cold War era and was dismantled when there was no more need."

Kılıçdaroğlu said the government did not accept the same offer two years ago "not to allow such a project that targets our friend Iran."

"But now they say 'this is not a bilateral agreement but a NATO project.' Does NATO decide how to use the lands of a member state?" he asked.

Standard & Poor's Ups Turkey's Credit Rating

International credit rating agency Standard & Poor's raised Turkey's local-currency sovereign credit rating by two notches to BBB- on Tuesday, meaning that the country's credit rating rose to investment-grade for the first time in its history.

"The local-currency upgrade reflects our view of continuing improvements in Turkey's financial sector and the deepening of local markets," S&P said in a statement affirming the foreign currency sovereign rating on Turkey at BB, two levels below investment-grade, with a positive outlook.

The İstanbul Stock Exchange benchmark index, İMKB-100, rallied, hitting a 6.20 percent rise to 62,000 levels at 2:30 p.m. The benchmark bond tumbled to 7.86 percent while the dollar depreciated below TL 1.77 against the lira by the time S&P announced it had raised Turkey's credit rating to investment-grade. However, both Turkish stocks and the lira gave back their gains after investors began selling stocks to realize a profit. The İMKB was trading around 60,800 points, or 4.92 percent up, by the time Today's Zaman went to print.

"The outlook on the ratings is positive. We could raise the ratings on Turkey if, once the economy cools as we expect, it can reduce its current account deficits and slow its domestic credit growth without too badly affecting its fiscal accounts or financial-sector stability. We could also raise the ratings if deeper reforms to social security resulted in a stronger fiscal performance that started to substantially reduce the government's debt," S&P said, signaling further rating increases.

"It is an accurate decision," Capital Markets Board, or SPK, head Vedat Akgiray told the Anatolia news agency on Tuesday. "My personal view is that Turkey's credit rating could have been raised more. … It will have a positive impact on reducing the current account deficit [CAD] permanently."

Anadolu Group Chairman Tuncay Özilhan underlined that it was a "late" decision.

"When considering the countries with debt problems, Turkey deserved this [rate increase] for a long time," Özilhan told Anatolia on Tuesday, adding that he expects foreign investors' interest in the country to increase.

Another business tycoon, Ahmet Nazif Zorlu, chairman of Zorlu Holding, said a rating increase to investment-grade will be very positive for the Turkish business world.

"It is very crucial to witness a rating increase while European countries are going through hard times," Zorlu noted. "From now on, Turkey will be able to get cheaper loans [referring to lower interest rates], and foreign investment in our country will speed up."

Meanwhile, the central bank announced on Tuesday that it had not made any changes to its one-week repo rate. Publishing the decision of its Monetary Policy Committee, or PPK, in a statement on its Web site, the bank said the rate, also known as the policy rate, remained at 5.75 percent. It also said the overnight borrowing and lending rates were kept unchanged at 5 percent and 9 percent, respectively. The late liquidity borrowing and lending rates were also not changed and remained at zero and 12 percent, respectively.

KKTC Keeps Office in Israel Despite Row

The representative office of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, or KKTC, is still operating in Israel, despite Turkey's row with Israel early in September, which ended in diplomatic ties being reduced to the level of second secretary in both countries, the KKTC foreign minister has acknowledged.

The KKTC maintains good relations with Tel Aviv, KKTC Foreign Minister Hüseyin Özgürgün told Today's Zaman on Tuesday. The country, whose sovereignty is recognized only by Turkey, has as many as 20 representative offices all over the world and, as Özgürgün also highlighted, they carry out the important mission of promoting the country worldwide, while contributing to the economy of the island. Its office in Israel was opened three years ago at the request of Tel Aviv through Ankara.

Turkey has consistently emerged as a benefactor and protector of the KKTC since its establishment in 1974 through a military operation carried out by Turkey to prevent the reunification of the island with Greece. The row over resources exploited unilaterally by Greek Cypriots, who abused the rights of the Turkish Cypriot, was the most recent example of Turkey intervening to defend the rights of the KKTC.

Turkey's latest reaction to the Greek Cyprus' exploratory drilling came from Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız on Tuesday, when he argued that the drilling for hydrocarbon sources off the coast of the Mediterranean island was "political instigation."

Yıldız suggested that the exploration and excavation activities of the Greek Cypriots amounted to violation of international law against the rights of the KKTC community. The minister also said that it was provocation on part of the Greek Cypriots to drill in a contested territory where borders were not conclusively determined and where the exclusive economic zone remained an issue of debate.

Turkey, in reciprocation of the Greek Cypriot drills, plans to sign an agreement that will define the continental shelf delineation between Turkey and the KKTC and allow both countries to carry out similar activities, particularly in the northern coast of the island that lies between the KKTC and Turkey. Yıldız further reiterated on Tuesday that teams looking for oil and gas in the Turkish-KKTC zone would also be accompanied by warships. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also reinforced the idea of military surveillance in the drilling area by an aircraft, a frigate and torpedo boats on Monday as he vowed that Turkey would begin offshore oil and gas exploration operations in collaboration with the KKTC, following similar moves by Greek Cyprus, Israel and Greece.

"We have also been taking such steps with Turkish Cyprus and within a very short time, possibly this week, we may start work in the exclusive economic region," Erdoğan told a news conference before embarking on a visit to the United States on Monday.

On the other side of the coin, Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias raised the issue of the debates in his Monday meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over drilling in the zone it claimed as its own exclusive economic territory; he considered the Turkish warnings to stop the drilling a threat to the sovereign rights of his country.

"The position of the Republic of [Greek] Cyprus is clear. We will continue. It is the sovereign right of the Republic of [Greek] Cyprus to explore and hopefully hydrocarbon will be found. Our Turkish Cypriot compatriots have nothing to lose, indeed they have much to gain," Christofias was quoted as saying on Tuesday in the Greek Cypriot daily Famagusta Gazette. The report also noted that the UN chief had promised Christofias that he would speak with Erdoğan regarding the issue.

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