Turkish Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın has stated that the United States’ 6th fleet has not yet arrived off Cyprus after it was claimed that the U.S. Navy will be in the eastern Mediterranean for the protection of Exxon’s drilling vessel from a potential Turkish intervention.
“We are also reading such news [from the press]. But we have no information that the deployment of the 6th fleet [off Cyprus] has been realized,” Kalın told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.
Some media reports had suggested that the U.S. 6th fleet will accompany an Exxon exploration vessel in its hydrocarbon activities in the eastern Mediterranean against a potential Turkish military intervention.
Tension between Turkey, Cyprus and Greece has been rising in recent months over Nicosia's energy exploration plans.
“If you initiate illegal means in your exploration efforts and violate sovereign rights, of course, there will be consequences"
Last month Turkish naval forces blocked an exploration vessel of Italian energy company ENI off the southeastern coasts of the island, known as block three. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots say this block is part of the economic zone of the breakaway north of the island.
Kalın stated that the exclusive economic zone of the island has been sectioned into different zones, repeating Turkey’s call on Nicosia to carry out hydrocarbon activities with the participation of the Turkish Cypriot administration.
“Let’s turn the eastern Mediterranean into an area of compromise and mutual interest, not a region of conflict and dispute. To this end, the Turkish and Greek sides of Cyprus can launch a joint study within the framework to be drawn by Turkey, Greece and other countries,” he said.
He added that Turkey has “no problem with gas exploration and drilling activities in the region.”
“But if you initiate illegal means in your exploration efforts and violate sovereign rights, of course, there will be consequences. Turkey will never hesitate in taking the necessary steps,” Kalın warned.
Cyprus - backed by the EU -has criticised Turkey for using 'gunboat diplomacy' to disrupt its energy exploration plans which it has every sovereign right to pursue and it is Ankara that is acting illegally and outside international law.
ExxonMobil`s top priority is the safety of its vessels and crews in the Eastern Mediterranean, its spokeswoman Suann Guthrie told CNA.
"Our plan is to drill two exploration wells starting in second half 2018," Guthrie said, adding that "part of the preparation is acquiring the relevant permits, which includes collecting environmental data using survey vessels."
"We expect the surveys to be concluded within the next couple of months. Our top priority is the safety of the crews conducting the survey and of others in the area," Guthrie concluded.
Cyprus and the consortium of ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum signed in April 2017 the exploration and production sharing contract for Block 10.