Cyprus accuses Turkey of violating international law by blocking drillship

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NICOSIA, Feb 11 (Xinhua) — Cyprus on Sunday accused Turkey of violating international law by blocking a drillship heading to a Cypriot offshore target to start exploratory drilling for natural gas on behalf of Italian energy giant ENI.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said Cyprus is dealing with the violation by taking “necessary steps,” without going into details.

“From our side, actions are in line with our wish to avoid anything which could escalate the crisis, but without overlooking the violation of international law by Turkey,” Anastasiades said.

The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed that Turkish ships obstructed the drillship’s passage to its destination, a spot about 100 km off the southeast coast of Cyprus and close to Lebanon’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

A spokesman for the Italian Foreign Ministry said that the situation is being watched “at the highest level” through its diplomats in Nicosia and Ankara, and that Italy is considering “all possible diplomatic steps to resolve the question.”

ENI said the “Saipem 12000” drillship, which had just completed a successful drilling southwest of Cyprus, is currently stationary and will remain in the region close to its target pending further development of the issue.

Cyprus’ State television reported that ENI officials would confer with Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis, adding that a senior ENI official is expected to arrive in Nicosia on Monday for talks.

Turkey is opposed to natural gas exploration by Cyprus, claiming either that it violates the rights of the Turkish Cypriots, or that part of the drilling is done in areas which are part of its continental shelf.

Turkey does not recognize the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLS) and objects to demarcating national EEZ in the eastern Mediterranean.

Cyprus has already marked its EEZ with Israel, Egypt and Lebanon.

Turkish troops occupied the northern part of the island in 1974, invoking intervention rights, after a short lived coup organized by the military rulers of Greece at the time.

The eastern Mediterranean island was partitioned along ethnic lines, with Turkish Cypriots living in a so called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the north, which is recognized only by Turkey, and Greek Cypriots, who represent Cyprus in the United Nations and the European Union, living in the south.

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