The U.S. Navy has increased its Mediterranean fleet, just a couple of weeks before Exxon is due to send two surveying vessels to explore offshore Cyprus near the area where Turkey blocked an Eni drilling ship from prospecting in February, Turkish news outlet Ahval reports.
Last year, ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum signed an exploration and production (E&P) sharing contract with the Cyprus government, under which the companies will start drilling in a block offshore Cyprus this year.
Two weeks ago, Turkish Navy vessels threatened to sink a drilling ship that oil major Eni has hired to explore for oil and gas offshore Cyprus - a divided island whose northern part is run by Turkish Cypriots and is recognized only by Turkey.
According to local media reports, four or five ships of the Turkish Navy tried to prevent Saipem’s 12000 drilling vessel from performing exploration in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Cyprus.
Turkey, which recognizes the northern Turkish Cypriot government and doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the internationally recognized government of Cyprus, claims that part of the Cyprus offshore area is under the jurisdiction of Turkish Cypriots or Turkey.
Earlier this month, Eni said that together with France’s Total, it had made a promising gas discovery offshore Cyprus, confirming that the Zohr-like play - where Eni found the biggest gas deposit in the Mediterranean offshore Egypt - extends into the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone.
According to Greek newspaper Ekathimerini, Exxon is intent on surveying its block offshore Cyprus despite the Turkish Navy activities and the blockade on Eni’s prospecting in the area. Cypriot Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis confirmed in the middle of February that Exxon had contacted Cyprus to express its support to the government of Cyprus and to confirm that it intended to meet its commitment to explore in Block 10, as per the exploration contract. Exxon is said to be sending two vessels with special robots to survey the best prospects for drilling that will begin in the second half of this year.