Cyprus takes legal action against firms drilling for gas in its EEZ

Nicosia has started legal proceedings against three companies involved in gas drilling by Turkey in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for encroaching on the island’s continental shelf, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Tuesday.

The move by Cyprus arrives as Turkey prepares to send its second vessel, the Yavuz, for offshore drilling for oil and gas near Northern Cyprus in the coming days. The Turkish drill ship, the Fatih, has been anchored west of Cyprus since last month.

The struggle for rich gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has been fuelling tensions between Turkey, Cyprus and Greece. European Union member states and U.S. officials have objected to Turkey's increasing drilling efforts in the region.

“We have already initiated legal proceedings against companies cooperating with the TPAO,” Kathimerini quoted the Foreign Ministry official as saying, in reference to the state-owned Turkish petroleum company.

 “We are determined to do the same with the Yavuz,” the official added. 

Greek Cypriot Foreign Ministry officials, while declining to name the companies, said they were not Turkish.

Nicosia and Athens disagree with Ankara’s claims of drilling rights in the region. Turkey, the only nation to recognise the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, maintains that attempts by Cyprus to conduct gas exploration are a violation of the rights of the Turkish part of the divided island.

Ankara claims that areas of Cyprus' offshore maritime zone, considered an EEZ, fall under the jurisdiction of Turkish Cypriots.