Stepping up its threats in the Aegean, Turkey warned it would sink an Italian company’s drill ship off Cyprus where it is licensed to look for oil and gas and where it’s been blocked from reaching.
Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and has kept the ship from the company Eni from getting into the reserved block near others where French and American energy companies also have permits to drill.
Turkish warships harassed Eni’s ship and threatened to sink it, forcing the vessel to veer off and avoid a collision or confrontation, said Greece’s SKAI radio, citing Cypriot news reports with tension ramping up.
The Turkish Navy has been blockading Eni’s Saipem 12000 drill rig for two weeks and the company’s CEO said he might have to pull back unless Turkey and Cyprus can find a diplomatic solution although Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has said little.
In a last-ditch effort before departing for Morocco, the drill ship attempted to approach the spot where it was supposed to begin its surveying, but the Turkish ships nearly caused a collision, that was averted in the last minute, after issuing clear threats to the Italian vessel that it would be sunk, the reports said.
Eni’s ship left the spot and started sailing west, setting course for Morocco to avoid a conflict, setting back Cypriot plans for energy exploration although America’s ExxonMobil said it wouldn’t be deterred by Turkish threats.
The incident happened at European Union leaders gathered in Brussels where Anastasiades was expected to bring up the issue and Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras was due to also talk about Turkish aggression in the Aegean after Greece said a Turkish patrol boat deliberately rammed a Greek Coast Guard ship near the disputed rocky islets of Imia.