Government spokesman Kyriacos Kousios clarified on Thursday that he had not meant to imply the information Turkey is believed to have obtained on offshore block 8 had been stolen.
The spokesman’s statements on Wednesday to Greek state broadcaster ERT that Turkey may have stolen that information stirred strong reactions with some political parties calling for detailed briefing from the government on how this might have come about.
Rushing to clear the air, Kousios said on Thursday he had mistakenly used the word ‘theft’.
“The whole issue was created by a slip of the tongue,” Kousios told the Cyprus News Agency, conceding that he used “the wrong word” to describe the situation.
He also repeated his comments from Wednesday that he was not suggesting the information was leaked by any of the energy companies active in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Kousios had said on Wednesday that the information the government had, along with Turkey’s moves in the area, indicated they had obtained certain studies. Turkey announced that its drillship Yavuz was going to block 8 of Cyprus’ EEZ where Italy’s energy giant ENI and France’s Total have drilling rights.
On Thursday, however, Kousios conceded that the government did not have any concrete information that Turkey had indeed obtained any information from those studies.
“Let’s not forget that for around two years, the Barbaros (research vessel) was scouring that area,” he said, adding that the Turkish vessel was there to collect information.
Also on Thursday, the head of the state environment department, Costas Hadjipanayiotou, confirmed reports that studies on block 8 had been posted in 2017 on his service’s website. He told Politis radio that the studies were online for a few days but were taken down after objections from ENI and the government.
Hadjipanayiotou clarified that those studies did not provide information on the reserves but on environmental aspects.
He added that after 2018, the law changed and the publication of studies linked with issues of national interest is now forbidden.
Along with block 8, ENI and French Total are also licensees for blocks 2, 3, 7 and 9.
Turkey’s claims on the island’s EEZ partly overlap with Cyprus’ blocks 1, 4, 6 and 7. Ankara also supports the north’s claims on blocks 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 12 and 13, including within few kilometres from the Aphrodite gas field.