Cyprus OK’s French, Italian Companies for Offshore Drilling

(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias, FILE)

With tension ratcheting up after Turkey put two energy drill ships in Cyprus’ sovereign waters, the government has approved new licenses for France’s Total and Italy’s ENI to explore a block in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) parts of which Turkey doesn’t recognize.

The two companies already had a presence in the EEZ, along with the United States energy giant ExxonMobil, which reported a major gas find earlier, leading to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sending in drillships in defiance of Cyprus, Greece, the United States, and bringing soft sanctions from the European Union.

Turkey argues the Cypriot EEZ infringes on its own continental shelf and that the granting of licenses to foreign companies violates the rights of Turkish-Cypriots who have been unlawfully occupying the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion there.

Cyprus has divided its EEZ into 13 blocks and Turkey has made claims to parts of blocks one, four, six and and seven, where Total and ENI were given licenses. Turkey sent warships into the area and last year scared off a research vessel from ENI.

Greece’s new New Democracy government said said the Turkish drilling for energy in Cyprus’ sovereign waters puts the whole region at risk of a conflict, but was ignored once again.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades accused Erdogan of an “energy invasion” of the island where Turkey still keeps a 35,000-strong army on the occupied land.

“The illegal actions of Turkey, which defy international law are placing the security of the region at risk. As such, they are absolutely condemnable,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias told reporters after meeting his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, said the news agency Reuters.

“We discussed this flagrant violation of the sovereignty and the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus perpetrated by Turkey,” Dendias said, hours after returning from a trip to Cyprus.

Greece and Turkey, along with the former Colonial ruler the United Kingdom, which still has military bases there, are guarantors of security for the island, along with a United Nations peacekeeping force.