Cyprus condemned Turkey’s dispatching of a drill ship to waters where Nicosia last month licensed offshore hydrocarbons exploration, calling the Turkish move a violation of the island’s sovereign rights, Reuters reported on Friday.
On the same day, Christopher Pincher, British Minister of State for Europe, gave a backing message to Cyprus after a meeting with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in Nicosia on Friday.
“This new provocation is exemplary of Turkey’s defiance of the European Union’s, and the international community’s, repeated calls to cease its illegal activities,” the strongly-worded statement by the Cypriot presidency said.
The Cypriot statement came after a Turkish drill ship, the Yavuz, anchored about 51 nautical miles southwest of Cyprus, called “Guzelyurt-1” by Turkey, on Friday morning.
In September, the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot authorities awarded licences to France’s Total and Italy’s Eni to explore for oil and gas in a new area, Block 7 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), off Cyprus’s southern coast.
Some claimed that Turkey’s action in sending the ship to the newly licenced area was a response to Cyprus.
“It is yet another proof of the utterly provocative and aggressive behaviour of Ankara, which has chosen to speedily and irreversibly depart from international legality, thus putting security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean at risk,” added the statement.
The British Minister supported Cyprus’s right to extract oils in its EEZ while addressing reporters following the meeting.
Pincher, however, added that “any oil wealth should be extracted to the benefit of all Cypriots.”
Turkey claims rights to potentially rich gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. It sees the attempts by the internationally recognized government of Cyprus to conduct gas exploration are a violation of the rights of the Turkish Cypriot as its territorial claims overlap with Cyprus’s EEZ.
The dispute arose after Turkey’s first drilling ship, the Fatih, anchored in early May and started drilling in June in waters claimed both by Cyprus and by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC).
The KKTC is a breakaway state in the north of the island which is recognized only by Turkey.
Later in July, a second Turkish drill ship, the Yavuz, dropped anchor off Cyprus.
Turkey has already drilled two wells, the Fatih in the west of the island and the Yavuz in the east, in waters to the island’s east and west.
In September, Turkey had moved the Yavuz back to the Turkish port of Tasucu in the southern province of Mersin.
On Friday, a Turkish diplomat, Cagatay Erciyes, announced that the Yavuz would start work on October 7, referring to licenses previously granted to the Turkish Petroleum (TP).
The Turkish authorities claim that they conduct the drills on a legal and legitimate basis as the United Nations (UN) was notified of the granting of the licenses.