In its biggest provocation yet, Turkey has sent its Fatih drilling ship into Cypriot waters, launching drilling operations that have prompted a response from the U.S. and a Greek Cypriot counter-threat, according to Oilprice.com sources in Istanbul.
With the U.S. and the EU chiming in this weekend with their own warnings, today, Turkish Naval Forces on board the Fatih reported threats over their radios of international arrest warrants coming from the Greek Cypriot authorities if the vessel does not vacate Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
As of this afternoon, the ship’s location is still in the EEZ, with Turkey refusing to budge.
Much is at stake for Cyprus, which stands to benefit enormously—both financially and geopolitically—if supermajor exploration efforts bear fruit. Exxon has made substantial discoveries in Block 10, which is in the EEZ, whose delimitation Turkey contests. In March this year, Exxon said that it had encountered commercial quantities of hydrocarbons in Block 10’s Glafkos 1 well, estimating some 5-8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
“We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restraint,” U.S. officials said on Sunday, following a similar warning by the EU made just days prior.
Earlier this year, a high-level Turkish government official told us that in a future standoffs over oil drilling in the disputed territory, Turkey could protect its civilian ships “with military ship”.
Turkey is following through on a threat to start drilling in disputed waters that it made most recently in February.
On Monday, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan address a NATO meeting in Ankara, saying that Turkey fully expected the military alliance to support Turkey’s rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement on the same day criticized the U.S. warning as being “neither constructive nor compatible with international law”. It also said that “the Greek Cypriot Administration’s EEZ delimitation agreements with the countries in the region are not valid for Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, and one of these agreements violates Turkey’s continental shelf rights”.
Turkey repeated its intention to continue its natural gas and oil drilling in the region, saying that “our drilling and seismic vessels will resolutely continue their activities in our continental shelf in the areas where our Government granted the Turkish Petroleum licenses in 2009 and 2012”.