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Turkish Navy vessels threatened on Friday to sink a drilling ship that oil major Eni has hired to explore for oil and gas offshore Cyprus—a divided island whose northern part is run by Turkish Cypriots and is recognized only by Turkey.
According to local media reports, four or five ships of the Turkish Navy tried to prevent Saipem’s 12000 drilling vessel from performing exploration in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Cyprus.
Turkey, which recognizes the northern Turkish Cypriot government and doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the internationally recognized government of Cyprus, claims that part of the Cyprus offshore area is under the jurisdiction of Turkish Cypriots or Turkey.
After the Turkish Navy threatened to sink the drilling ship, the Saipem vessel maneuvered out of the area and set sail for Morocco, Greek newspaper Ekathimerini reports.
The straining of the relations in this part of the Mediterranean started a few weeks ago, after the Turkish Navy blocked the Saipem vessel hired by Eni.
Just days before that, Eni said that together with France’s Total, it had made a promising gas discovery offshore Cyprus, confirming that the Zohr-like play—where Eni found the biggest gas deposit in the Mediterranean offshore Egypt—extends into the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone.
Eni’s chief executive Claudio Descalzi said last week that the row is a diplomatic one and out of the company’s control.
On the sidelines of an event yesterday, Descalzi said that Eni would probably move the blocked drilling ship, but would not pull out of its project in Cyprus.
Related: Oil Prices Rise After EIA Reports Crude Draw
The President of the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, said in a statement earlier this week that his country’s “goal is to fully explore Cyprus’s hydrocarbon potential, in the best terms possible, so as to maximize the benefits for all the people of Cyprus.”
Dismissing Turkish Cypriot and Turkey’s statements as “unjustified and unfounded”, Anastasiades said that “Finally, once more, I wish to publicly call on Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community to immediately respond to my call to return to the negotiating table, provided that this is preceded by the termination of the violation of the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus in its exclusive economic zone.”
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.