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Turkey carries out seismic surveys north of the island

By Elias Hazou

THE government yesterday denounced the encroachment into Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by ships commissioned by Turkey to carry out seismic surveys northeast of the island.

The ministry was responding to a NAVTEX (Navigational Telex) issued by Turkey notifying mariners that three research vessels will be carrying out seismic surveys in the eastern Mediterranean between November 22 and December 18.

A NAVTEX is a broadcast to mariners notifying or warning ships of weather forecasts, military drills and other similar activities.

The foreign ministry said Turkey had no legal right to reserve the sea areas designated in the NAVTEX. The areas, the ministry said, include part of the territorial waters of the Republic, near the southern coasts of the Karpas Peninsula and the Gulf of Famagusta, as well as part of the adjacent Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic.

The government also issued a notice underlining that sea areas within the Search & Rescue Region of the Republic (which also include territorial waters) as well as Cyprus’ EEZ, “can only be reserved by the Republic of Cyprus.”

The ministry said it is closely monitoring the Turkish moves and activities and taking “all due actions to protest the new violations by Turkey of the sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdictions of the Republic of Cyprus in its seas.”

The government was also considering “further ways of conveying the message to Ankara that it is not in its interests to continue undermining stability and security in the region and violating its legal obligations towards all members of the international community.

“Despite Turkey’s delinquent behaviour, the Republic of Cyprus will continue undistracted its activities for exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in its seas, through the duly licensed by the Republic of Cyprus oil and gas companies, always acting in accordance with the relevant provisions of the International Law of the Sea and its national legislation,” the statement read.

The NAVTEX issued by Turkey provided the coordinates bounding the reserved sea area.

Based on the coordinates given, the southernmost bound of the area falls just below the tip of Cape Greco, with the easternmost boundary situated approximately halfway between Cape Greco and the coast of Syria. In terms of latitude and longitude, the reserved area just about skirts offshore blocks 2 and 3, which Cyprus has licensed to an Italian-South Korean consortium. Even so, it does trespass into the Republic’s EEZ.

Online vessel tracking tools meanwhile showed the Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa – a research ship purchased by the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) reportedly for $130m – to be zigzagging off the tip of the Karpas peninsula at the extreme northeast of the island.

In addition to the Barbaros, two other vessels – the M/V Bravo Supporter and the M/V Deep Supporter – were also conducting research as part of the same NAVTEX.

Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz said in September that Turkey aimed to extend hydrocarbons exploration up to the area around Cyprus, pending approval from the country’s prime minister.

Reports by Turkish Cypriot daily Kibrisli that a drilling platform had also arrived off the island’s northern coast, proved to be inaccurate. According to online tracking, the platform was yesterday located just off the port of Iskenderun, Turkey.

Other reports claimed the same platform, called the GSP Jupiter, would commence exploratory drilling in waters around Cyprus.

The Turkish move to deploy three research vessels in the eastern Mediterranean comes a week after Cyprus decided to put up for auction offshore blocks 5 and 6, lying southwest of the island and in an area which Turkey claims falls within its own continental shelf.

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