Cyprus’ plan to pursue offshore hydrocarbons search has been undermined by Turkey, which has sent warships to prevent the rig from reaching the targeted drilling location.
Speaking to the Cyprus state broadkaster RIK, the government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said that the rig, elonging to the Italian energy firm ENI, remains anchored about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the drilling target off the island nation’s southeastern coast. The Associated Press reports that the Turkish warships told the ENI rig not to continue because there would be military activities at its destination.
ENI decided that the rig would remain where it stopped until the situation is resolved; the company and the Cypriot government have expressed determination to continue as planned.
According to the Cypriot spokesman, the Turkish warships also prevented other merchant vessels from approaching the area, citing ongoing military maneuvers, pointing out that a Turkish notice blocking off the area for military activity violates international law and is legally invalid.
From its part, Turkey has been opposing the drilling for a long time, saying it disregards the rights of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the island’s natural resources. Turkey’s foreign ministry issued a statement accusing the Cyprus government for acting like “the sole owner of the island” and warning that the country would be responsible for any consequences, the AP reports.
Greece’s foreign ministry responded with a harsh statement, condemning what it said was Turkey’s disregard for international law and the “blatant violation” of Cyprus’ sovereign rights. It also said that Turkey’s “provocative” behavior wasn’t appropriate for a country that has worked to join the European Union membership.
This was backed by a statement made by the European Commission spokeswoman, Mina Andreeva, who said that “Turkey needs to commit unequivocally to good neighborly relations and avoid any kind of source of friction, threat or action directed against a member state.”
From his part, newly reelected President Nikos Anastasiadis tried to diffuse tension, promising that Cyprus is taking actions that will neither lead to an escalation of tensions nor overlook the fact that Turkey was violating international law.
The Cyprus government says a gas search is its sovereign right and that any potential hydrocarbon wealth generated will be equitably shared among all Cypriots after the island is reunified.