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Italy Sends Warship to Protect Italian Energy Ship off Cyprus

Αssociated Press

(Turkish Defence Ministry via AP, Pool, FILE)

NICOSIA - With Turkey having drillships hunt for oil and gas in Cypriot waters in defiance of international law, the Italian Navy has sent a frigate near where the Italian energy company Eni – which had been scared off previously by a Turkish warship – is operating.

The frigate Federico Martinengo made a stop in the port of Larnaca in what the Italian government said was part of a patrol operation and in the protection of national interests without specifying its duties.

Couching the intent of the mission in diplomatic terms, Italian newspaper La Repubblica said the government it was part of a “patrol in the eastern Mediterranean, aiming at the presence and surveillance of maritime areas, respecting international law and protecting national interests.”

But officials who weren't identified said, “The message to Ankara is clear: if we need to show our flag, we are ready,” in reference to Turkey warning it wouldn't allow energy companies licensed by Cyprus' legitimate government to operate in waters that Turkey claims.

An energy ship from Eni had been scared off under threat of being sunk but the company began working again although CEO Claudia Descalzi said in October he was ready to pull out if staying might create a shooting conflict.

“I’m not worried,” Claudio Descalzi said at a conference in Rome. “If someone shows up with warships I won’t drill wells... I certainly don’t want to provoke a war over drilling wells,” Reuters reported at the time.

The Federico Martinengo arrived Dec. 6 and the commander and crew representatives took part in the celebrations of the Feast Day of Agios Nikolaos, Patron Saint of the sea, sailors and the navy.

After leaving, it headed off to conduct training activities with ships from the navies of neighboring countries, including Greece and Cyprus from Dec. 12-14.

Its presence in the port of Larnaca is part of the Naval Diplomacy activities, carried out in the field of international cooperation and dialogue between the countries of the area, with which Italy has important political relations- diplomatic, economic and industrial, the Sydney-based Greek City Times reported.