Turkey has issued a new Navtex (navigational warning) by which it has reserved for ‘military training’ a large swathe of sea area off Famagusta Bay extending to within 30km of the location of an upcoming gas drill in Cyprus’ offshore block 3.
Navtex 0153/18, issued by the Antalya Station, was effective on Monday. The reserved area is some 3,740 square kilometres, starting from just 25km off Cape Greco and covering a large part of block 3.
At its southernmost boundary, the reserved area is reportedly just 30 km from the target selected by ENI and Kogas for conducting an exploratory drill in early February.
The entire area reserved by Turkey comes within the Nicosia Flight Information Region (FIR), which is almost interchangeable with Cyprus’ Search and Rescue Area of Responsibility.
In response, Cyprus issued a Navtex of its own, notifying mariners to disregard the Turkish navigational warning.
Coming back, Turkish authorities issued a new Navtex (0155/18), claiming to nullify the Cypriot Navtex which sought to nullify the original Turkish notice to mariners.
Appended to Turkey’s Navtex 0155/18 is a statement with political content.
It states of the Cypriot notice: “The ‘Republic of Cyprus’ mentioned in NR 047/18 is not the original partnership state established in 1960.
“Therefore, activity NR FA66-0153/18 in territory, the exclusive economic zone, the continental shelf and SAR region of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is legal and in compliance with international law.”
In effect, Turkey claims that the area it reserved is part of the breakaway regime’s continental shelf as well as its Search and Rescue Area of Responsibility.
In recent months Ankara has escalated the use of navigational warnings around Cyprus, in an apparent bid to question the Republic’s jurisdiction over the latter’s SAR Area of Responsibility.
Turkey does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus.
The latest Turkish Navtex could also be seen as a warning of sorts to ENI, which plans to bring a drillship to block 3 sometime in the next few days.
The Saipem 12000 drillship, leased by ENI, is currently located in block 6 – licensed to ENI and Total.
Once finished in block 6, the drillship will immediately head out to block 3, at a drilling site dubbed ‘Soupia’ (Cuttlefish).
Turkey maintains that Cyprus cannot unilaterally exploit its offshore natural gas resources without including the Turkish Cypriots.