Turkish warships continue to impede a rig from reaching a location off Cyprus where Italian energy company Eni is scheduled to drill for gas, the Cypriot government said Monday.
Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told state broadcaster RIK that the rig remains anchored about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the drilling target off the island’s southeastern coast.
He said Cyprus and Eni are focused on ensuring that drilling goes ahead as planned.
Christodoulides said Turkish warships prevented other merchant vessels from approaching the area, citing military maneuvers. He said a Turkish notice binding the area for such maneuvers expires Feb. 22. Cyprus says the notice violates international law and is legally invalid.
Cyprus was divided into a Greek Cypriot south, where the internationally recognized government is seated, and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974, when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is only recognized by Turkey which maintains mover 35,000 troops in the north.
Turkey opposes what it says is a “unilateral” search for resources by the Cypriot government because it disregards the rights of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the island’s natural resources.
The Cypriot government says it is its sovereign right to drill for gas and that any income from the hydrocarbons will be shared equitably after the island is reunified.
Greece’s foreign ministry condemned what it said was Turkey’s disregard for international law and the “blatant violation” of Cyprus’ sovereign rights. In a statement Monday, the ministry called on Turkey to stop any further unlawful actions and to comply with its international legal obligations.
It also said that Turkey’s “provocative” behavior isn’t in line with that of a candidate for European Union membership.
Turkey has in the past routinely issued notices binding areas south of Cyprus for naval drills in response to the island nation’s hydrocarbons search.
Last week, Cyprus said that Eni had discovered a potentially sizeable gas deposit at another target southwest of the island.