President Nicos Anastasiades says he hopes that there will not be any Turkish provocations as drill ship ‘West Capella’ arrived off the southern Cypriot coast in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
French energy company Total in consortium with Italian Eni, is set to start drilling in Block 11 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by the end of this week.
In the build-up to the vessel’s arrival and following the failed Cyprus peace talks in Switzerland recently, Turkey has moved to issue a warning against Anastasiades’ government and international energy firms contracted to begin drilling within Cyprus’ EEZ.
“We will react as appropriate, as we have done in the past, wishing that there would be no provocations to (affect) the interests of either the big companies or the interests of the Cypriot people”, Anastasiades told reporters earlier this week.
Two French-flagged frigates are currently docked at Larnaca Port – although the French government claims that they are on the island as part of peacekeeping missions for Lebanon. A US warship is also in the region, but for other reasons too.
The West Capella will begin a series of test drills this week before commencing the actual drilling.
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told reporters that the Turkish military drills are at a distance from the drill ship adding the Cypriot government “is monitoring the situation calmly”.
Turkey issued an NAVTEX late on Monday night committing an area of 10,000 square kilometres to the west of Cyprus (No 3 on image) for a military drill from 5:00am-10am on 12-13 June.
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The committed area starts 14 nautical miles off the coast of Akamas and includes parts of plots five, six and seven in Cyprus’ EEZ while the north-eastern part of the committed area is a popular fishing ground for Cypriot-flagged trawlers.
At the same time, Turkey has issued three NOTAMs for 11am-4pm on Tuesday and includes areas in the northern and north-western Nicosia FIR for search and rescue exercises.
The move compounds concerns due to the increase in commercial airline traffic in the area.
The first NOTAM includes an area of 2,500 square kilometres north-west of Cyprus (No 4 on image) while a second stretches to 25 kilometres from the northern coastline and from Apostolos Andreas to Akamas (No 5 on image).
The third NOTAM includes the area between the north coast of Cyprus and the southern coast of Turkey (N0 5 on image) to a height of 20,000 feet.