Cyprus’ hydrocarbons programme is on track despite Turkey’s illegal forays into the island’s waters, lawmakers said on Tuesday.
They were speaking to the media after receiving a confidential briefing from Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis on the state of play in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Lakkotrypis himself did not speak to the press.
Chair of the House commerce and energy committee Andreas Kyprianou expressed satisfaction that “the Republic’s exploratory programme is ongoing, as is the process for commercial exploitation of the gas fields.
“It is a difficult time, a dangerous time, but Cyprus continues to exercise its sovereign rights,” he added.
Scheduled exploratory and appraisal drilling, as well as efforts to monetise the Aphrodite gas field, would continue this year.
Similar remarks were made by Diko deputy Angelos Votsis.
But pushing back, MP Costas Costa of main opposition Akel said they had grave concerns over Turkey’s presence in the EEZ.
“We stressed [during the briefing] that unfortunately our EEZ is not secure, despite statements from government officials, and that the unacceptable Turkish provocation, with the tolerance of the international community, creates new facts on the ground and poses dangers to our people.”
He went on to ask when the international community, including the European Union, would take concrete steps to halt Turkey’s “pirate-like” conduct in waters off Cyprus.
“Turkey is applying the rule of the jungle in Cyprus’ EEZ,” Defence Minister Savvas Angelides said from Athens where he met his Greek counterpart Nikos Panagiotopoulos. “Unfortunately Turkey is ignoring law and geography.”
The ministers discussed measures to improve cooperation and military ties in line with better security in the East Mediterranean. They also spoke about further collaboration with the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (Pesco).
Earlier this month Turkey issued a marine advisory by which it reserved for drilling operations an area inside Cyprus’ offshore block 8.
The Cypriot government had already licensed the block to companies ENI and Total.
Under the Turkish advisory, the drillship Yavuz will be carrying out drilling from January 18 to May 24.
The reserved area is located at the southeast corner of block 8, which the north says falls within its own waters based on a ‘continental shelf delimitation agreement’ signed with Turkey in 2011.
The precise position of the Turkish drillship is unknown, as the vessel still has its transponder switched off.
The next planned drilling by Cyprus will be in block 6 – likewise licensed to a consortium of ENI and Total.
Work had been due to start at a site dubbed Kronos (Jupiter) in early February, but was delayed owing to technical issues faced by the drillship, the Tungsten Explorer, while it was operating in Egyptian waters.
The ENI-Total consortium is planning at least three drills in Cypriot waters in the 2020-2021 period.