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Gunboat diplomacy kicks in as Turks threaten drilling

By Charlie Charalambous
Turkey has sent two ships and a submarine to monitor a drilling vessel off Cyprus, the military said yesterday, in a measure likely to increase tension.

Nicosia said the Turkish move was expected as Ankara wants to crank up the pressure over gas exploration, but will stop short of any military attack.

The drilling work, a contractual obligation between Cyprus and France’s Total and Italy’s ENI, comes a week after the collapse of settlement talks in Switzerland.

Ankara said it will take steps against Cyprus for engaging in “unilateral” gas and oil exploration, saying hydrocarbon resources should belong to both sides.

The military said it had deployed the frigates and a submarine to the eastern Mediterranean to “guarantee the security of oil transportation”.

Another frigate was dispatched to monitor a drilling vessel off the coast of Cyprus, it said.

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Turkey’s energy and foreign ministries are working together to plan steps against Nicosia, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, without elaborating on what those measures might entail.

Test drills for the joint venture between French energy giant TOTAL and Italy’s ENI are scheduled to start on Friday.

“We are prepared for various scenarios,” said Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis on Thursday.

“Our perception is that Turkey will continue to challenge us one way or the other,” Lakkotrypis said.

“It is more appropriate to focus on what we do and the best answer is to keep a low tone and respond through our actions at sea,” he added.

The data from the exploratory well Onisiforos W-1 to be sunk by Total-ENI in Block 11 of Cyprus EEZ will remain secret pending results which are expected towards the beginning of September, according to Lakkotrypis.

“There is a sense of relief that everything has started off on the right foot,” said the Minister, indicating that the drilling rig West Capella which arrived at the designated drilling spot at 01.30am Wednesday morning was currently being supplied with the necessary equipment and supplies needed to commence the drilling.

“It is of significant importance as it is the first well in what we call the second licensing round in the eastern Mediterranean, centering on the underwater mountain range Eratosthenis and the discovery of the Zohr gas field in Egypt.”

Lakkotrypis indicated that the well will either support or disprove the model built around the discovery of Zohr with regards to carbonate rock layers around Eratosthenis. “The results will be known by the beginning to mid-September,” he added.

“Because we can see the geological structure through the seismic charts, if there is a discovery, we do not expect it to be large one.”
Drilling crews on the West Capella have started preliminary testing before the scheduled start of operations.

“Despite from what we have heard (from Turkey) the drilling will start and we hope for the best possible results in order to promote the interests of our country,” said Lakkotrypis

The Onisiforos W-1 well is expected to be completed within 75 days approximately and expected to reach a depth of 4,250 below mean sea level with an ocean floor depth of 1,698 metres.

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