Turkey warned on Tuesday that it will do what it takes to ensure that its Fatih vessel is not impeded from drilling in coming days off the coast of Antalya on its southern Mediterranean coast.
“There is no security risks [toward the vessel]; however, if harassment takes place, our naval forces will do what is necessary,” the Anadolu news agency quoted Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez as saying during the launch ceremony for the Fatih, Turkey’s first drilling vessel.
He said the message is aimed at those who seek to “limit our rights in northern Cyprus and Turkey based on international law.”
According to a navigational telex (navtex) issued by Ankara, the Fatih and three research vessels will be operating until April 27, 2019 – a period of nearly 150 days – in an area 60 nautical miles off Antalya at the Alanya-1 borehole.
“Our aim is to open two drilling wells on average a year with the Fatih vessel,” Donmez said.
Turkey’s energy plans in the Eastern Mediterranean have been a source of concern for Cyprus, given that Ankara has disputed Nicosia’s right to exploit natural resources off the island’s coast.
Turkey has accused Cyprus of proceeding without taking into consideration the rights of Turkish Cypriots who live in the occupied north of the island and has repeatedly issued threats to Nicosia that it will not allow it to proceed in areas that it disputes.
Turkey also claims that a part of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) lies within its continental shelf.
Donmez said that “we don’t have an eye on the resources of others; our only issue is to present to our people the riches within our territory.”
The region reserved by Turkey is a few dozen miles north of Block 10 in Cyprus’s EEZ where ExxonMobil will begin drilling for gas.