Without explanation, the Turkish oil-and-gas drilling ship Fatih left waters in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) where it had been searching for energy in defiance of the island’s legitimate government, Greece, the United States and defying soft European Union sanctions.
The vessel had been deployed west of Akamas peninsula since last April and seemed to be heading back to Turkey but the destination was unclear, said Kathimerini Cyprus. Its presence in the EEZ had ramped up tension, fears of a conflict and was undermining any hopes of resuming reunification talks, with Turkey occupying the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion.
It is not clear why the vessel is leaving the area and whether it will remain in the eastern Mediterranean, the paper said, as it departed six months after entering Cypriot waters, leading Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to complain to the United Nations, which ignored him.
The Cypriot government at the time issued arrest warrants against companies, company executives and crew who are involved in the ship’s operations without the explicit or implicit consent of the Cypriot government but never tried to enforce it with Turkish warships nearby.
Turkey has another drillship, Yavuz to an area off the west coast of the island, in Block 7 of the island’s EEZ, which Cyprus has already licensed for exploration to the French-Italian consortium of Total and Eni, with the Italians saying they would leave if a conflict seemed imminent.
In a recent interview with Kathimerini, Turkey’s Ambassador to Greece Burak Ozugergin had said the drill ships and seismic research vessels would not leave Cypriot waters unless the Cypriot government included Turkish-Cypriots in the licensing of foreign companies but one did and there was no report he said anything about that.