By Elias Hazou
FOR THE second time over the last couple of months, Turkey has encroached into Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), dispatching research vessels to waters south and southwest of the island.
Earlier this week Turkey issued a NAVTEX (Navigational Telex) notifying mariners that three ships will be conducting seismic surveys and designating the sea area reserved until May 13.
A NAVTEX is a broadcast to mariners notifying or warning ships of weather forecasts, military drills and other similar activities.
The three ships are the Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa – a research ship purchased by the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) reportedly for $130m – the M/V Bravo Supporter and the M/V Deep Supporter.
The Barbaros has the capability of carrying out 3D surveys of the seabed, gathering data used to determine the presence of hydrocarbons.
Local media reports claimed that the area reserved by Turkey trespassed into parts of offshore blocks 4, 5 and 6, which lie south-to-southwest off the coast of Cyprus. The three blocks fall within an area which Turkey claims as its own continental shelf.
It was not possible to confirm this yesterday; the defence minister could not be reached for comment.
But online vessel tracking tools last night placed the Barbaros west of Paphos, at a latitude bordering offshore block 1, which lies above blocks 4, 5 and 6.
Despite staying out of block 1, the vessel had trespassed well into the EEZ, which encompasses a much larger area than the offshore blocks.
Having reached the boundary of block 1, the ship turned right around and headed in a northern direction.
Turkey carried out a similar action back in December, when it reserved sea areas northeast of the island. The coordinates of that NAVTEX showed the area reserved just about skirted offshore blocks 2 and 3, which Cyprus has licensed to a foreign consortium. It was apparently a tit-for-tat move, coming just one week after the government here decided to put up for auction blocks 5 and 6.
Earlier this month, Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yıldız stated that oil and natural gas found anywhere in Cyprus “belong to the whole of Cyprus.”
Turkey does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, and contests its right to enter into EEZ agreements or to exploit unilaterally natural resources until there is a comprehensive settlement.
Meanwhile Yildiz was yesterday quoted as saying that he would discuss with the breakaway regime’s ‘government’ an energy plan for the whole of Cyprus during an upcoming visit to the north.