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Turkey trespasses for fourth time since hydrocarbons discovered

In 2011 Piri Reis entered well into Block 12

By Staff Reporter

THIS IS the fourth time in recent years that Turkey has trespassed into Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), with the seismic survey vessel Barbaros involved in three of these encroachments.

In September 2011 the seismic research ship Piri Reis entered well into Block 12, coming within approximately 40 nautical miles from the Aphrodite gas field where Noble Energy was conducting exploratory drilling.

At the time the Piri Reis cut a path through parts of blocks 10, 11 and 12. Although the then government reported the violations to the United Nations, publicly it downplayed the incident and had not threatened to break off peace talks.

In December 2013 Turkey reserved sea areas northeast of the island. The coordinates of that marine advisory showed the area reserved just about skirted offshore blocks 2 and 3, which Cyprus had licensed to the ENI-KOGAS consortium. It was apparently a tit-for-tat move, coming just a week after the government decided to put up for auction blocks 5 and 6 to the west of the island. At one point the Barbaros came close to within 12 nautical miles from the shore, staying just outside Cyprus’ territorial waters.

And in January of this year, the Barbaros again sailed into the EEZ after Turkey reserved a sea area that trespassed into parts of offshore blocks 4, 5 and 6, lying south-to-southwest off the coast of Cyprus. The three blocks fall within an area which Turkey claims as its own continental shelf.

Online vessel tracking tools then placed the Barbaros west of Paphos, at a latitude bordering offshore block 1, which is located 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.

The Barbaros was purchased by the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) reportedly for $130m. It is capable of carrying out 3D surveys of the seabed, gathering geological data used to determine the presence of hydrocarbons.

The current marine advisory issued by Turkey reserves a swathe incorporating parts of blocks 1, 2, 3, 8 and 9. On Monday the Barbaros entered Block 3, but is also expected to come into block 9 where ENI is currently drilling for gas.

Although this is not the first time Turkey will be intruding into a “hot” offshore block, it’s understood the key difference lies in that, unlike past forays, the Barbaros is now conducting seismic surveys in earnest.

Despite repeatedly violating Cyprus’ EEZ and its offshore blocks, Turkey has been careful to never commit areas overlapping those reserved by Cyprus. Areas reserved for hydrocarbons activity are far smaller than the offshore blocks themselves.

Ankara does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, nor the latter’s jurisdiction over the Cyprus EEZ. Turkey – not a signatory to the 1982 Law of the Sea – has repeatedly warned Cyprus against “unilaterally” exploiting offshore hydrocarbons without including the Turkish Cypriots. Nicosia’s position is that joint exploitation of the natural resources is possible only after a comprehensive settlement and reunification.

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