Turkish Warships Block Cypriot Drilling Rig In Dispute Over Mediterranean Gas Field

Amid escalating tensions between Cyprus and Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea, the two countries could be headed towards a resource war.

On Monday, the Cypriot government released a report according to which Turkish warships continue to heavily restrict one of its deepwater drilling rigs from reaching its intended site off the Cyprus coast, where Italian energy company Eni is planning to conduct a drilling operation.

Cyprus officials announced on Monday that Turkey is breaching “international law” by blocking the Italian ship from the drilling site, said the Russian Times. According to the Cyprus News Agency, Italy’s energy giant Eni S.p.A. said that its gas drilling ship was ordered to halt its travels by Turkish warships last Friday, citing “military activities in the destination area” as it sailed through Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.

Cyprus Government Spokesperson Nicos Christodoulides told state broadcaster RIK that the rig remains moored about 30miles (50 kilometers) from the drill site located off the island’s southeastern coast. Christodoulides further noted that Turkey’s military maneuvers expire Feb. 22. Nevertheless, Cyprus strongly condemns the illegal actions by Turkish warships. According to Marine Traffic, the rig’s status remains in “restricted maneuverability” with two other support vessels.

"We are keeping calm in order to avoid any crisis and taking all diplomatic steps necessary so that finally the Republic of Cyprus’ sovereign rights can be respected,” President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters on Sunday adding that "we are handling the situation by trying to avoid anything that could worsen the situation without ignoring the fact that Turkey’s actions are in breach of international law."

RT explains the Cyprus–Turkey maritime zones dispute which has been ongoing for 45 years:

Turkey, which does not have diplomatic relations with Cyprus, says that some areas of the so-called exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Cyprus are under Turkish jurisdiction. The island was split some 45 years ago between the internationally-recognized, Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey.  

However, Turkey’s foreign ministry in Ankara criticized Cyprus over the “unilateral hydrocarbon-related activities” by the European Union’s most easterly member. “It does so in disregard of the inalienable rights on natural resources of the Turkish Cypriot people, who are the co-owners of the island,” a statement said.

The dispute over resources in the Mediterranean Sea is nothing new between the Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This has been an ongoing argument for over four decades. Meanwhile the sea grab for resources has recently included three other regional rivals, Israel, Lebanon and Hezbollah, who are similarly fighting over resources not too far away.