NICOSIA – Ignoring Turkish warnings, ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum began exploratory drilling in Block 10 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with no interference despite bombast from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan it wouldn’t be allowed to happen.
“We are very excited about developments ongoing in the region and we see great promise,” the US Assistant Secretary of State responsible for energy Francis Fannon said after a meeting with Cypriot Energy Minister Georgios Lakkotrypis in Nicosia.
“We view energy as a catalyst for cooperation and economic development to benefit all the people in the region and Cyprus has a meaningful role to that end,” said Fannon, according to Kathimerini.
The Cypriot Energy Ministry said that the Stena-Icemax drillship will drill at the Delphyne-1 site – at a depth of nearly 2 kilometers below the seabed. The operation is set to last for two months and the government is reportedly confident that a large amount of gas reserves will be found.
Turkey said foreign energy companies licensed to drill in Cyprus’ EEZ, parts of which Turkey doesn’t recognize, are trespassing on its rights to hunt there as well and disregarding Turkish-Cypriots who’ve been unlawfully occupying the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion.
Fannon reiterated Washington’s support for Cyprus’s search for energy resources, adding that future financial gains should be shared between Greek and Turkish Cypriots as part of a reunification deal.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades had already agreed to that but Erdogan said it’s not enough and that Turkish-Cypriots have a right to part in the licensing process or they would authorize drilling as well.
Turkey had sent warships off Cyprus previously, scaring off a vessel from the Italian company Eni with no attempt by the Italian Navy to protect it. The Turkish Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa seismic exploration vessel remains in the area, moving between blocks 4 and 5 of Cyprus’s EEZ.