Drilling for natural gas begins this week in Block 11 of the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone. The state of Cyprus, and French oil giant Total and Italian ENI are determined to proceed with drilling works, despite Turkey’s provocations. “Nothing can stop the drilling,” Cyprus and Total said on Monday.
Furious about the offshore drilling Ankara condemned the operations and sent frigate, TCG Gokceada, to the area. The purpose of Gokceada is to monitor the West Capella, the drilling vessel used to drill on Block 11.
The West Capella already arrived in Cypriot waters, and is going through a trial and control work program. When given the green light, the vessel will start drilling in 700 meters water depth. The work is expected to last about two to three months and the first results are expected to be announced this autumn. Analysts expect that the drilling operation will be a success, as Block 11 is close to immense offshore gas discovery Zohr in Egypt.
Due to the offshore drilling activities, Cyprus has closed five miles around the Block 11 and two neighboring blocks to sea traffic.
Ankara sees this as a direct confrontation, as it has always stated that all the resources of the whole island belong to both Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. In a reaction to the Turkish press, officials stated that all resources (gas) should be shared between these two communities.
Turkey has been illegally occupying with 35,000 troops the North of Cyprus since 1974.
At the same time, US aircraft carrier “George H.W. Bush” has sailed in the area and has reportedly blocking communications between Turkish fighter jets.
Following a decision by French President Emmanuel Macron, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly is paying Cyprus a short visit on Monday. Parly will meet with her Cypriot counterpart, Defence Minister Christophoros Fokaides. Parly is expected to arrive in Larnaca on board a French Navy frigate and inspect the French Navy ships in the area.
According to Greek media, the French Armed Forces Minister plans to visit the Total/ENIS platform to demonstrate support.
“Offshore gas developments in the East Mediterranean region are heating up. Alongside increased exploration efforts and a possible gas pipeline deal between Turkey and Israel, geopolitical risks are increasing too. While commercial prospects are starting to look good for all parties, a real military conflict is also brewing and may come to a head if Cyprus, Greece and Turkey are not able to find a solution soon,” global energy website oilprice.com notes in an opinion article.
The drilling aims to reach in a depth of 4,000 feet. Is the offshore gas exploration project at risk because of Turkey? Or will they just p[lay cat and mouse?