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Turkish frigate harasses research vessel in EEZ (Updated)

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By George Psyllides

THE GOVERNMENT said on Monday it will complain to the United Nations after the Turkish navy expelled a Norwegian vessel searching for hydrocarbons in Cyprus’ economic exclusion zone, claiming it had entered an area under Turkey’s jurisdiction.

Initial reports had said the Princess had been carrying research in block 9 – off Cyprus’ south coast – inside the island’s exclusive economic zone when the incident happened on Saturday night. Officials later said the incident took place further west, near block 7.

The Princess was carrying out a survey on behalf of French oil giant TOTAL, which has been granted exploration licences for blocks 10 and 11. Block seven lies north of 11.

A Turkish armed forces statement said the Princess had entered the sea area that was under Turkey’s jurisdiction at 18.40pm on Saturday night.

It departed at 11.50pm following a warning from a Turkish frigate, the statement said.

Cypriot authorities said the frigate had asked the Princess, via radio, to leave the area.

Deputy government spoksman Victoras Papadopoulos said the Princess continued its course towards the area to carry out its survey.

“This provocative behaviour by Ankara in no way affects plans to exploit the hydrocarbons of our country,” the spokesman said.

“The research vessel’s operations are being conducted normally.”

Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou said this was a frequent occurrence and it was nothing different from what had been happening in recent months.

“Turkey’s strategy is to create tension in the area through threats and provocations,” Fotiou said. “The best response is to implement our plans concerning energy.”

The minister said Cyprus will not give up its sovereign rights and will not halt its plans because of the threats.

Fotiou’s comments were made following a visit on board the US Navy’s guided missile destroyer USS Ramage, on a port visit to Cyprus.

Last week officials said Turkey had encroached into Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), dispatching research vessels to waters south and southwest of the island.

They said three ships, the Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa – a research ship purchased by the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) – the M/V Bravo Supporter and the M/V Deep Supporter had entered into Cyprus EEZ.

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.

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