Cyprus Mail

President to raise Yavuz in island’s EEZ with EU leaders on Thursday

President Nicos Anastasiades will on Thursday raise the matter of Turkey’s latest incursion into the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone with EU leaders.

According to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), on Wednesday Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides will discuss the issue during a scheduled video conference with his EU counterparts.

Ahead of the conference, Christodoulides has spoken with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias. The Greek foreign ministry has condemned Turkey’s drilling activities off Cyprus.

And on Thursday, Anastasiades will discuss the same matter during a European Council video conference.

The arrival of the Turkish drillship Yavuz in waters to the southwest of the island is the sixth illegal drilling operation by Ankara in Cyprus’ economic waters.

Citing a military source, CNA said the Yavuz arrived at its destination inside block 6 of the Exclusive Economic Zone at 1am on Tuesday.

Also at the site is the support vessel Orhan Bey. Both vessels are being shadowed by a Turkish frigate.

Earlier, Turkey had issued a marine advisory reserving for drilling operations areas of block 6 and 7 of the Cypriot EEZ from April 20 to July 18.

The areas reserved by Turkey fall inside what Ankara claims is its own continental shelf to the south and southwest of the island.

Another unnamed source told CNA the Italian government was monitoring with concern the latest developments and was in close contact with Nicosia.

Rome was also said to be in communication with Italian energy company ENI, given that blocks 6 and 7 are licensed to ENI and France’s Total.

The same source said that during Thursday’s European Council video conference, the EU is expected to take a position “with regard to another provocation by Turkey”.

Turkey is acting as one of the major stakeholders in energy developments in the region, which makes its relations with the other countries difficult, the source added. Moreover Ankara’s action is taking place amid the coronavirus pandemic when energy projects have been put on hold.

ENI and Total had planned to carry out exploratory drilling at a site dubbed Kronos in block 6.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, work had been due to start 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 rig is currently drilling in Lebanese waters, where it’s expected to finish sometime in late April. After that, it had been scheduled to come to Cyprus.

Although it’s understood that ENI and Total haven’t formally informed the government that the Kronos drill has been put on hold, a postponement is considered more than likely.

Without specifically referring to Cyprus, ENI recently announced it was reviewing its activities in 2020 and 2021, as well as all its energy projects in the Middle East, with the aim of reducing capital expenditures.

Meanwhile commenting on the Turkish activities in Cypriot waters, a spokesperson for the British High Commission called for a “de-escalation.”

“The UK has consistently stated our support for the Republic of Cyprus’ sovereign right to exploit the oil and gas in its internationally agreed Exclusive Economic Zone. We believe the most enduring way of resolving difficult issues such as this is to achieve a Cyprus settlement. We encourage all parties to redouble their efforts in pursuit of this,” the spokesperson told CNA.

“We continue to believe Cyprus’ oil and gas should be developed for the benefit of all Cypriots.”

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