The government of the Republic of Cyprus believes Turkey has obtained privileged drilling information regarding an area off the southern coast of the island.
(Click here for an update to the story)
Cypriot Government Spokesperson Kyriacos Koushos, who spoke to Greece’s Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation ERT on Tuesday, charged Ankara with having “somehow” obtained information regarding Block 8, which lies north of Egypt’s Zohr and Israel’s Leviathan gas fields.
Previous studies were conducted by energy firms ENI and TOTAL, after the Italian and French companies obtained exploratory licences from the Republic of Cyprus.
'I want to make it absolutely clear that there is no insinuation that the companies were in any way involved'
“It appears that they got the information collected in the studies,” Koushos said, while clarifying he did not believe the data were shared by the licenced companies.
“I want to make it absolutely clear that there is no insinuation whatsoever that the companies were in any way involved,” Koushos added.
The block in question, listed as number 8 on EEZ maps drawn by the Republic of Cyprus, has also become the target of Turkish exploratory drilling activities.
Ankara says it is acting on behalf of Turkish Cypriots, saying they granted licences to Turkish companies back in 2011 to carry out drilling in the area in question, south of the divided island.
Greek Cypriots, who insist Turkey is acting illegally in violation of intentional law, have also gained support from the European Union which condemned Turkish drilling around Cyprus.
But further moves in the form of specifically-targeted sanctions against Turkey have been slow to come by, with Koushos saying according to the Cyprus News Agency that he was a lot more satisfied with the position of the United States on the issue compared to "hesitation and indecision" at the EU Council.
Turkey, a formal candidate to join the EU despite worsening ties, had criticised the EU and said it would not cease drilling in the eastern Mediterranean because it is operating on its own continental shelf or areas where Turkish Cypriots have rights.
CNA reported earlier on a story by Hellas Journal, a Greek-language network based in New York, citing a state department spokesperson saying the US was “deeply concerned” and was calling on Turkey to halt drilling activities around Cyprus.
“The United States remains deeply concerned by reports of Turkey’s drilling operations in the waters off Cyprus, including plans to dispatch the Yavuz south of Limassol,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, in a response to Turkish President Tayip Erdogan who recently said Ankara would be willing to share finds off the southern coast of Limassol, Koushos dismissed the gesture saying “Turkey has become a pirate in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
“It sounds like a thief is offering the owner half of everything,” Koushos said.
Suspicions over Turkey having obtained information about Block 8 prior to exploratory drilling were raised in a report by daily Phileleftheros a day earlier, saying Ankara had benefited from data collected by ENI after the newspaper compared maps and concluded ENI drilling points were too close to locations pinpointed by Yavuz over the weekend.