Second Turkish Energy Drillship Positions Off Cyprus

FILE - Turkey's 230-meter (750-foot) drillship 'Yavuz' crosses the Marmara Sea on its way to the Mediterranean, from the port of Dilovasi, outside Istanbul, Thursday, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

A second Turkish drillship arrived July 8 in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where another has been hunting for energy in the island’s sovereign waters, ratcheting up tension and fears of a conflict.

The Yavuz joins Fatih, another Turkish drillship, stationed off the west coast of the island in a search for natural gas in an area near where the legitimate government had licensed foreign companies to drill, with America’s ExxonMobil reporting a major gas find.

Turkish press reported that Turkish army drones are surveying the area around Yavuz and a warship had been positioned in the region previously, adding to the anxiety as the United States and European Union backed Cyprus’ right to issue the licenses.

The arrival of the Yavuz was reported off the island’s northeastern coast by Refinitiv Eikon shipping data and as Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez was quoted by state-owned Anadolu news agency saying drilling would begin within a week.

Last month, EU leaders warned Turkey to cease the drilling after Greece and Cyprus pressed for sanctions otherwise and as Cyprus issued international arrest warrants that Yavuz had been at the southern Turkish port of Mersin doing final tests and taking on supplies before departing for Cyprus, said the news agency Reuters.

Turkey, which doesn’t recognize Cyprus and bars its ships and planes, also disputes parts of the island’s EEZ, claiming some waters belong to the Turkish-Cypriot northern third of the island that’s been occupied since an unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades wrote a letter of complaint to United Nations Secretary Antonio Guterres but was ignored, as have previous Cypriot letters to the international body.