Cyprus Sets Sea Borders for Energy Drilling, Gets Greece’s Backing

FILE - In this photo taken Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, a man walks as an other man sits on a beach during a warm day as a drilling platform is seen in the background, outside from Larnaca port, in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA – Facing challenges from Turkey, which has unlawfully occupied the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion, Cyprus is moving ahead to set the rest of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), trying to re-establish borders in the seas where it has licensed international companies to drill for oil and gas.

Cyprus will delineate the EEZ that Turkey has violated, including the north and western part, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said, calling on Greece to offer its “observations” as the Cypriot zones abut Greece’s EEZ, Kathimerini said in a report.

Anastasiades, facing re-election in preliminary polls this month, walked away from negotiations with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkey refused to remove a standing army and wanted the right to militarily intervene.

That led to Turkey stepping up provocations, including sending its own energy research vessel into Cypriot sovereign waters it doesn’t recognize, along with laws of the sea and the legitimate government, a member of the European Union that Turkey wants to join.
Greece has already agreed with the EEZ request, the paper said, because it is an abutting area although Turkey has also sent warships into the Aegean past Greek islands and near Cyprus, where the Greek government said Turkey has no legal standing.

Anastasiades said that, “There is no issue of setting a dividing line between Turkey and Greece, but between Cyprus and Greece.”

Questioned by reporters about possible reactions from Turkey, he said that, “We will monitor it closely and we will respond and act accordingly,” being deliberately vague and giving no explanation of what the options might be.

Turkey earlier issued a so-called NAVTEX reserving an area covering 41,000 square kilometers (15,830 square miles) off its southern coast, including almost the entirety of the island’s exclusive EEZ. This area includes Plot 6, where the Saipem 12000 deepwater drillship of the French-Italian consortium of energy giants Total and ENI has started drilling for hydrocarbons.

ENI Chief Executive Officer Claudio Descalzi earlier said he was optimistic despite earlier international drillings that failed to show there were any substantial finds. He said ENI nonetheless thinks there is a good supply of gas and has invested 150 million euros ($179.02 million) to look for it.

As it has before and was ignored, Cyprus’ government is protesting plans by Turkey, which has occupied the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion, to drill for energy in waters where international companies have been licensed.

Turkey had sent a warship and energy research vessel into sovereign Cypriot waters before  and issued what the Cypriot government called an unlawful NAVTEX reserving the area for its own exploration in violation of international laws Ankara doesn’t recognize.

“We are ready to face Turkey`s threats and plans for illegal drilling in Cyprus` Exclusive Economic Zone, as we have done so far, in an effective and cool manner,” Deputy Government Spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said, adding that official protests would also be lodged although it hasn’t deterred Turkey yet.

France’s Total and Italy’s Eni will join in the drilling. The work will be a joint exploration in an area designated as Block 6 after disappointing results in Block 11. Turkey said the legitimate government and international companies have no right to operate and said it would claim any share of potentially lucrative findings.