Cyprus confirmed on Friday that Italian ENI energy company has postponed a planned drilling for natural gas after a Turkish warship prevented its drillship from proceeding to its target for a second time in two weeks.
“We understand that ENI decided to postpone its planned drilling in Cyprus exclusive economic zone,” government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told Cypriot state television in an interview from Brussels.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades is discussing in Brussels with the leaders of other EU member states about Turkey’s objection to natural gas exploration by Cyprus and how to formulate a joint EU reaction.
State radio reported earlier that a Turkish frigate moved against drillship “Saipem 12000” operating on behalf of ENI in a “threatening manner” and tried to ram it.
The incident happened on Friday at 10:00 a.m. local time on the verge of an area between Cyprus and Lebanon, which was reserved by Turkey for military drills.
The drillship is sailing into Limassol port where it will stay for two to four days before proceeding to its next target off Morocco, according to the radio.
Turkey had prevented the drillship on Feb. 9.
The spokesman said that ENI is not dropping its plan for more drillings in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, after announcing in early January that it discovered a sizable gas field off the southwest shores of the island.
“The government is not changing its energy planning either”, Christodoulides said.
ENI’s vice-president in charge of offshore drilling, Claudio Descalzi, said on Thursday that the company will probably have to move its drillship to another target but is not relinquishing its interest in the area.
“Then we’ll come back, waiting for international, European, Turkish, Greek and Cypriot diplomacy to find a solution,” he said.
Turkey claims that its action to block ENI from drilling is aimed at the protection of the rights of the Turkish Cypriots, who pulled out of the Cypriot government in 1964.
Turkey occupied the northern part of the island in 1974, reacting to a coup by the military rulers of Greece at the time.