Cyprus says Turkey might have stolen data for latest gas drilling

Turkey might have stolen data that enabled it to send a drilling ship to a specific location off the coast of southern Cyprus that had previously been selected by Italian energy company Eni and France’s Total for exploratory drilling, a Cypriot official said on Wednesday. 

Although Cypriot authorities do not have definitive proof, it is believed that Turkey got its hands on data that helped guide its drill ship to the specific target, the Associated Press quoted Cypriot government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos as saying. 

Turkey currently has two vessels conducting exploratory work off Cyprus. The Turkish Foreign Ministry announced on Sunday that the Yavuz drill ship had been dispatched to the south of the island to search for hydrocarbons.

The ship was sent to the exact location where Cyprus has licensed Eni and Total to carry out exploratory work, AP said. Cyprus has divided its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) into 13 blocks and Turkey has made claims to parts of blocks one, four, six and seven.

“There is information, which is probably correct, that they had stolen plans and studies from a specific company, that is why they went to the specific spot,” Koushos told Greece’s state broadcaster ERT.

The Cypriot official said he was not suggesting that either Eni or Total had handed Turkey the data and denied reports that Turkey was in secret negotiations with Eni to search for hydrocarbons in the area.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in 1974 in response to a coup backed by Greece's nationalist government at the time. Turkey, the only nation to recognise a breakaway northern Turkish Cypriot state, maintains that attempts by Cyprus to conduct gas exploration are a violation of the rights of the Turkish Cypriot part of the divided island.