NICOSIA – With international companies drilling for oil and gas offshore and Turkey planning to put a research vessel into sovereign waters, Cyprus has commissioned its first offshore patrol boat to protect its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The vessel, the Commodore Andreas Ioannides, was put into service Jan. 15 during a ceremony held at Evangelos Florakis Naval Base in Mari, Jane’s Navy International reported, to improve the Cyprus Navy’s capacity against incursions.
The 44-million euro ($53.78 million) vessel was built by Israel Shipyards in Haifa Bay, and includes an option for an additional vessel.
Based on the Israeli Hetz (Saar 4.5)-class fast attack missile craft, the OPV displaces 430 tons and has a top speed of 32 knots (36.82 miles) per hour. It can carry a crew complement of 30 in addition to a special forces unit.
The vessel features two Rafael Typhoon 23 mm stabilized weapon stations integrated with a pair of Rafael TopLite electro-optical systems. It is equipped with an advanced radar and modern navigation, command and control and satellite communications systems, and can carry two rigid inflatable boats.
Commodore Andreas Ioannides has reportedly been fitted for future arming with the Rafael Typhoon MLS-NLOS medium-range naval missile system configured with eight Spike-NLOS missile launchers. Once armed, it will be first missile boat to serve with the maritime forces of Cyprus, the report said.
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.