Turkish warships blocked the Saipem 12000 while it attempted to reach bloc 3 in Cyprus’ EEZ to begin exploratory drilling, deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos told the Cyprus News Agency on Friday.
“The drillship was halted by five Turkish warships and after threats of violence launched (by the Turkish side) and the threat of a collision with the drillship … the drillship was compelled to return back,” he said.
Turkey, which does not have diplomatic relations with [South] Cyprus, this week issued another NAVTEX, warning that it would continue engaging in military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean until March 10.
A spokesman for Italian energy company ENI, which contracted the Saipem 12000 drillship, said the vessel would move on to Morocco. Its chief executive said on Thursday it was very likely the drillship would have to be moved to a new location in the coming days. Local media reported earlier on Friday it was heading to Limassol in Cyprus.
Cyprus will officially protest to international forums over the latest incident, Papadopoulos said.
[South] Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades spoke about the issue to other European Union leaders on Friday in Brussels. Cyprus was determined to press ahead with its plans for oil and gas exploration, he said.
EU leaders expressed solidarity with Cyprus and European Council President Donald Tusk said the bloc was calling on Turkey to cease activities that have led to the recent standoff.