Cyprus was taking all necessary diplomatic steps to resolve peacefully the harassment of ENI’s drillship Saipem 12000 by Turkish warships and avoid an escalation, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Sunday.
“It is with sorrow that we are monitoring Turkey’s actions,” Anastasiades said. The government was keeping its calm to avoid any crisis, while it was taking those diplomatic steps necessary so that the “Republic of Cyprus’ sovereign rights can be respected”.
“The way things are being handled, at this time, by us is the way to avoid any escalation of the situation without ignoring the fact that Turkey’s actions are in breach of international law,” he said.
The Saipem 12000, which was on its way to the Cuttlefish (Soupia) location in Block 3 of the island’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), was told to stay put by the Italian oil giant, after harassment by Turkish warships that reportedly ordered the captain to change course. Its latest status according to live ship-monitoring website – marinetraffic.com – is ‘restricted manoeuvrability’. Most of Sunday the vessel had not moved.
An ENI spokesman told the Cyprus News Agency on Saturday evening that the vessel, will stay put until the issue is resolved.
Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis was to have a meeting today with Nicosia-based representatives of ENI, while an official from the company’s headquarters in Italy was expected to arrive in Cyprus on Monday.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Sunday criticised the Republic of Cyprus for continuing “its unilateral hydrocarbon-related activities in the Eastern Mediterranean” and said that Turkey would continue to protect its own interests.
These activities were “in disregard of the inalienable rights on natural resources of the Turkish Cypriot people, who are the co-owners of the Island,” said the Turkish foreign ministry. Turkey shares the justified concerns of the Turkish Cypriot people on this issue, it added.
“The sole responsibility for any situation that could arise as a consequence falls on the Greek Cypriot side, which, instead of expending efforts towards a just and lasting comprehensive settlement in Cyprus, persists in acting as though it were the sole owner of the Island and in continuing its unilateral hydrocarbon-related activities,” the Turkish foreign ministry said.
This attitude of the Greek Cypriot side, it said, is “irresponsibly jeopardizing the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean region” and is also the fundamental reason behind the failure of the Cyprus settlement negotiations to produce an outcome for the past half-century.
The Turkish ministry also urged companies based in third countries to refrain from supporting, “through cooperation with the Greek Cypriot Administration in the area of hydrocarbons, this unconstructive Greek Cypriot attitude which also constitutes a major obstacle to the settlement of the Cyprus issue”.
The Saipem 12000, which stopped some 15 nautical miles from its target location within Block 3, was some 70km off the coast of Cape Greco, on the south-eastern corner of the island. The drillship had set off from Block 6, off the south-west coast on Friday, a day after ENI announced promising gas finds at the Calypso plot, but was intercepted by Turkish warships, which reportedly ordered the Saipem to change course.
The Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign ministry’ said on Saturday it would not accept the extension of ENI’s activities into Block 3, which it claims for the ‘TRNC’ and accused the Greek Cypriots of raising tensions in the region. Turkey, meanwhile is laying claim to sections of blocks 1, 4, 6, and 7 in Cyprus’ EEZ saying the areas in question are part of its continental shelf.