South Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides has told reporters that said his government’s objective is to ensure that the drillship Saipem 12000, chartered by Italian energy giant ENI, carries out its scheduled exploratory drilling for gas in bloc 3, offshore South Cyprus.
Turkey has repeated the message that it would not allow the Greek Cypriots to ‘unilaterally’ exploit natural gas resources without sharing with Turkish Cypriots.
Efforts were being made via diplomatic channels to resolve the current impasse at sea, he said. On Friday, Turkish warships set up a blockade around the drillship Saipem 12000, stating that military exercises were being conducting in the area, offshore South Cyprus. The drillship is around 50km away from the drilling site.
Asked what the South Cyprus government would do if Turkey extended its marine notice, reserving bloc 3 for military exercises expiring on February 22, Christodoulides was evasive.
“We are ready to handle the situation as it develops. Various things are being considered, alternative scenarios have been drawn up, and depending on how the situation evolves the Republic shall act accordingly,” the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Energy Minister Berat Albayrak emphasised that Turkey fully intended to exercise it rights pertaining to international law and also to defend the rights of the Turkish Cypriots. He accused the Greek Cypriots of seeking to create “facts on the ground” through their gas exploration activities, warning that Turkey would stand against this “to the very end.”
Turkish Cypriots, he added, are joint and equal owners of the island’s natural resources.
In September 2011, North Cyprus signed a ‘Continental Shelf Delimitation Agreement’ with Turkey. On this basis, the Turkish Cypriots declared an ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’ of their own, which in effect claims that half of South Cyprus’ EEZ belongs to them, including blocs 1,2,3,8,9,12 and 13.
Additionally, Turkey itself is laying claim to parts of various blocs in South Cyprus’ EEZ saying the areas in question form part of its continental shelf. The claim includes part of blocs 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Reportedly the Saipem 12000 is chartered to work for Morocco in March. Time is running out for the Italian company ENI to make use of the drillship. Drilling operations were expected to take between 20-25 days.
Greek Cypriot daily ‘Politis’ said that Saipem 12000 may be able to wait until 22 February to begin exploratory drilling, coinciding with the same date that the Turkish Navtex expires.