Turkey deploys drillship Yavuz off southern Cyprus

Turkey has dispatched its drillship Yavuz to conduct hydrocarbon exploration works off the south of the divided island of Cyprus, the country’s foreign ministry announced on Sunday.

Yavuz was relocated on Jan. 17 to the Block G in the south of the island, the ministry said in a statement.

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

Ankara maintains that part of Cyprus’ planned drilling for hydrocarbons in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is on its continental shelf and is therefore Turkey’s by right. Turkey also maintains that attempts by Cyprus to conduct gas exploration are a violation of the rights of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a breakaway state recognised by only Ankara.

“Our drillship, Yavuz, was relocated on [Jan. 17] to the Block G in the south of the island in order to conduct its third drilling activity as part of the licenses given to Turkish Petroleum in 2011 by the TRNC [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] government,” the written statement issued by Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hami Aksoy said. 

The Greek Cypriot government on Sunday accused Turkey of turning into a pirate state over what Nicosia labels illegal drilling efforts. 

Turkey dispatched the Yavuz to Cyprus on June 21of last year as part of its efforts to press its claims to potentially rich gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, which has led to tensions between Turkey, Cyprus and Greece.

The Yavuz withdrew from the waters off the divided island of Cyprus in September.