Cyprus says Turkey is blocking drill rig from approaching natural gas area

The Turkish military has been obstructing a drill rig contracted by Italy’s Eni from approaching an area to explore for natural gas, Cyprus said on Sunday February 11th, which was later confirmed by the state-owned Italian firm. There are growing tensions over offshore resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

Drill ship Saipem 12000 drill ship had been heading from south-southwest of Cyprus towards an area southeast of the country when it was stopped by Turkish warships on Friday.

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Cyprus was taking the “necessary” steps over the matter. “From our side, our actions reflect the necessity of avoiding anything which could escalate (the situation), without of course overlooking the violation of international law perpetrated by Turkey,” Anastasiades told journalists in Nicosia.

The European Union’s executive on Monday called on Turkey to “refrain from any actions that might damage good neighbourly relations”. A spokeswoman for the executive European Commission said that “Turkey needs to commit unequivocally to neighbourly relations and avoid any kind of source of friction, threat or action directed against a member state”.

In Italy, an Eni spokesperson confirmed that the drill ship was stopped on Friday by Turkish military ships. Eni had previously reported a promising gas discovery south-southwest of Cyprus on February 8th, inside Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, and had been heading to a point south-east of Cyprus to investigate another prospect. A spokesperson for Italian state-owned Eni said that the Saipem 12000 had been stopped by Turkish military ships with a notice not to continue because of military activities in the destination area. “The vessel has prudently executed the orders and will remain in position pending an evolution of the situation,” the spokesperson said.

The Saipem 12000 had been heading to maritime Block 3, where it was to start work on prospect Cuttlefish. Block 3 lies closer to Syria or Lebanon than it does to Turkey.