Turkey preparing to drill off Cyprus as tensions soar in E. Mediterranean- Greek Reporter

Ankara has issued a new NAVTEX, blocking off parts of the Eastern Mediterranean, some of which overlaps with Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the Greek Reporter said on Friday.

Ankara is preparing to send its ”Fatih” vessel to the area to conduct drilling for oil and gas with plans to conduct the drilling not inside Cyprus’ actual EEZ, but in an area Greece claims for its own, it said citing Greek and Cypriot media.

Turkey has been in a bitter dispute with Greece and Cyprus over the island's exclusive economic zone and drilling hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Ankara objects to Cyprus and Greece’s efforts for gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and says the break-away northern Turkish Cypriot state - which is only recognised by Turkey - should receive a fair share from gas resources of the disputed island, while it has territorial claims that overlap with Cyprus’ EEZ. 

Ankara plans to conduct the drilling until September, with the assistance of three additional supportive vessels, according to the latest Turkish NAVTEX.

Underlining that Greece has not declared its own Exclusive Economic Zone and as such there are no clear boundaries of such an area, the Greek Reporter pointed to experts who say Turkey is claiming sovereignty in an area where Greece’s and Cyprus’ zones connect with each other.

Turkey’s intention is to draw Greece and Cyprus into a difficult position, the Greek Reporter said, in opposition to the energy-related plans of Athens, Nicosia and allies in the region, such as Egypt and Israel.

The U.S. State Department on Thursday warned against increased tensions in the Mediterranean.

Francis Fannon, the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Energy Resources in the US Department of State, said ”the United States was strongly discouraging any activity that could escalate tensions.”

Both the EU and Egypt on Saturday urged Turkey to reconsider plans to start exploratory drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus,  a move has been condemned as illegal by the European Union, Saudi-based Arab News reported.

“We express grave concern over Turkey’s announced intention to carry out drilling activities within the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus,’’ it quoted EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini as saying.