Cypriot state television reported on Saturday that Turkish vessels had “harassed” a drillship operating on behalf of Italian ENI as it was sailing to a drilling target for natural gas in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Quoting Cypriot government sources, the report said that the ship received instructions from Rome to temporarily discontinue its route towards its drilling target.
The ship was last reported by navigation sites to be stationary at a spot about 70 km off the southeast shores of Cyprus after being ordered to change course overnight on Friday, according to the report.
Drillship “Saipem 12000” was sailing towards block 3 of Cyprus’s EEZ to start a new drilling off the southeast shores of the eastern Mediterranean island following a successful drilling operation in the southwest, the report said.
Turkey, which has been objecting to the natural gas drilling there by Cyprus, had sent vessels to monitor previous exploratory drilling operations.
Cypriot government sources were reported by state radio that Cyprus is making diplomatic representations and is in touch with ENI on how to deal with the issue.
Turkey issued a notice to mariners reserving a vast area for military training. The notice will be effective on Feb. 18, when the ENI drillship would be in the region.
Cyprus issued its own notice to mariners advising them that the Turkish notice was an “unauthorized and illegal activity in the exclusive economic zone, the continental shelf and the search and rescue region of the Republic of Cyprus”.
Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan, on a trip to the Vatican and Italy last week, said he conveyed his country’s “sensitivities” about drilling on behalf of Cyprus, which Turkey does not recognize as a state.
Turkish troops occupied the northern part of the island in 1974, invoking intervention rights, after a short lived coup organized by the military rulers of Greece at the time.
The eastern Mediterranean island was partitioned along ethnic lines, with Turkish Cypriots living in a so called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the north, which is recognized only by Turkey, and Greek Cypriots, who represent Cyprus in the UnitedNations and the European Union, living in the south.
Newly elected Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said that he will be contacting the resident UN representative in Cyprus next week in a move to find out how the Secretary General assesses the possibility of resuming the stalled negotiations to reunite Cyprus.