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French army minister to visit Cyprus on Monday

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly is expected in Cyprus on Monday just as a Turkish exploratory vessel continues to roam within Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) following the move by French energy firm Total to begin drilling south of the island.

On Saturday, Turkey’s exploratory vessel Barbaros entered Block 6 within the island’s EEZ and was on Sunday reportedly heading to Block 7 – situated next to Block 11 where Total and ENI have dispatched the West Capella to begin drilling for gas.

Barbaros never entered the area of Block 7 but has been instead been in a holding pattern within Block 6.

According to French reports, Parly is expected on the island to meet Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides on Monday but her visit is said to be related to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and two French frigates situated at Larnaca port.

Political pundits, however, say the timing of Parly’s visit to Cyprus is to send a message to Turkey that they will be supporting the efforts of Total’s drilling in Block 11.

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Tensions between Turkey and Cyprus have increased since the collapse of the peace talks in the Swiss Resort of Crans-Montana – after Greek Cypriots failed to agree with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu over a new deal on security and intervention rights for a new federal Cyprus.

Turkey’s relations with Greece have also soured since the peace talks hit the dead-end.

Turkey claims that it is preserving its ‘guarantee rights’ and are essentially question the island’s EEZ in its entirety.

Turkey has announced that it is looking to buy a platform to start hydrocarbon exploration in Block 6 within Cyprus’ EEZ of which Turkey claims the northern half.

Similar claims have been made for Blocks four and five while it also suggests that blocks two, three, eight and nine and a large portion of Block 12 are licensed by the Turkish Cypriot authorities and particularly the Turkish Petroleum Company.

Furthermore, Turkey claims that Block 11 – where the West Capella is about to start exploratory drilling on behalf of a Total/ENI partnership – belongs to Egypt.

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