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MERSIN, (Turkey): Turkey on Tuesday sent its newest drill ship on the first eastern Mediterranean energy exploration mission in nearly two years.

The search for natural gas in energy-rich waters around the divided island of Cyprus has turned into an irritant in Turkey’s ties with the European Union.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Abdulhamid Han drill ship — the fourth built by Turkey — will be sent to an undisputed area about 55 kilometres (34 miles) south of the city of Gazipasa.

But he also brushed aside Greek and Cypriot objections to such missions and said Turkey had the right to search for energy in areas it claims as its own.

The Abdulhamid Han is “the symbol of Turkey’s new vision in the area of energy,” Erdogan said at the sending off ceremony in the southern city of Mersin.

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