The Italian navy ship Mimbelli was spotted sailing near the ENI drill ship, in Block 6 of Cyprus exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on Friday.

In a post on twitter, the Italian navy said the ship had participated in the ‘Safe Mediterranean’ operation to protect national interests, near ENI’s Tungsten Explorer drilling rig, which recently discovered a natural gas field at the Cronos-1 target, off the coast of Cyprus.

“#naveMimbelli engaged in operation #MediterraneoSicuro to protect national interests, near ENI’s “Drilling Ship TUNGSTEN EXPLORER” which recently discovered a gas field with the Cronos-1 well about 90 miles off the coast of Cyprus. #MarinaMilitare,” the Tweet read.

According to earlier posts by the Italian navy, the Mimbelli was recently docked in Istanbul, from where it sailed last week.

The ministry of energy recently announced the successful and safe completion of drilling operations at Cronos-1, within block 6 of the EEZ, with the amount of natural gas in the reservoir discovered estimated at 2.5 trillion cubic feet. It was also announced that the Tungsten Explorer has switched to the “Zeus-1” target, for new exploration drilling in block 6.

Italian multinational oil and gas company Eni announced the discovery of the well, located about 160km off the coast of Cyprus, on Monday. Block 6 is operated by Eni Cyprus with a 50 per cent stake, and TotalEnergies as a partner.

Speaking to CyBC radio on Tuesday, Energy Minister Natasa Pilides said the recent discovery and the new well, called Zeus-1, will create the conditions for viable investments from abroad.

Eni and TotalEnergies have also confirmed the newly found gas field is fully exploitable.

The discovery of new natural gas fields in Cyprus’ EEZ sparked a reaction from Turkey, as its foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the country was entitled to a share of the revenues stemming from future drilling.

He said that part of the area exploited by ENI and TotalEnergies belongs to Turkey.

“We will not allow companies to operate in our continental shelf, where we continue to carry on drilling and seismic surveys,” he told the Turkish media, adding that a solution to the issues in the Eastern Mediterranean area depends on fair distribution and sharing of revenues.

A Turkish aircraft, dubbed a ‘spy plane’ made a low pass at over a section of Block 6 on August 18 sparking alarm. Media reports said the Turkish aircraft was picked up by both Cypriot and Greek radar. After making a pass over Block 6, the plane turned west and flew south of the Greek island of Kastelorizo, before re-entering Turkey’s FIR.

Social media purported to identify the aircraft as a Turkish navy ATR-72, a civilian plane configured as a maritime patrol aircraft.

Turkey currently has three ATR-72s in service.

When asked about the possibility of Turkey undermining any drilling, Pilides, said the threat is real.

“We are monitoring the situation very closely every day, but I want to make clear that the new discoveries are located in areas that are not disputed by Turkey,” she said in an interview with Greek news outlet ERT.