NICOSIA – In an open shot at Turkey, the United States said Cyprus has the right to license foreign energy companies – including ExxonMobil – to hunt for oil and gas offshore in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ.)
Turkey doesn’t recognize parts of those waters as Cyprus’ and has had research vessels at times guarded by warships drilling in them in defiance of soft European Union sanctions, and with the United Nations refusing to intervene.
Cyprus gave licenses to the US energy giant and its partner Qatar Petroleum which drew an immediate rebuke and warning from Turkey that it wouldn’t allow them to proceed, suggesting its Navy would stop them.
“The US policy on the Republic of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone is longstanding and has not changed. The United States recognizes the right of the Republic of Cyprus to develop the resources in its exclusive economic zone,” a State Department spokesperson said, reported Kathimerini.
Turkey accused Cyprus of violating its continental shelf by awarding an exploration licence to the two companies, saying it will not allow unauthorized exploration in its self-declared jurisdiction.
Turkish warships previously scared off an energy research vessel of the Italian company Eni that had a license in the EEZ, with no response from Italy and the US didn’t say what would happen if Turkish warships stopped an ExxonMobil ship.