Cyprus Confirms Arrest Warrant for Turkish Drillship Crew

The Fatih (file image)

Published Jun 14, 2019 5:48 PM by The Maritime Executive

The government of Cyprus has confirmed that it has issued arrest warrants for crewmembers of the Fatih, a Turkish drillship that is currently operating within Cyprus' EEZ area. Turkey disputes the maritime boundary and claims that it is operating on its own continental shelf area. 

A Cypriot official told Reuters that "a double digit number" of Turkish mariners aboard the Fatih are wanted by Cyprus law enforcement for their involvement in the venture. Turkey's Foreign Ministry has denounced the warrants as "null and void" and threatened to carry out a "necessary response" if any of the Fatih's crewmembers are arrested.

The warrants are the latest move in a long-running dispute between Cyprus and Turkey over drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus is split between two governing factions - a Greek-aligned, internationally-recognized government in the south (Cyprus) and a Turkish-aligned administration in the north (Northern Cyprus). The Cypriot government claims EEZ rights for the waters off all of the island's shoreline, and it has already issued E&P leases off its southern and eastern coasts. Turkey maintains that Northern Cyprus has a right to benefit from the offshore economy as well, and Turkey's state oil company has purchased two drillships to conduct an exploration campaign in Cypriot-claimed waters. 

The first of these ships - the Fatih - recently began drilling about 30 nm off the west coast of Cyprus, a move that the U.S. State Department "highly provocative." Turkey maintains that it has a right to develop energy reserves on its continental shelf claim, and to cooperate with Northern Cyprus to explore Cypriot waters. "The legitimate rights of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus over the energy resources of the Eastern Mediterranean are not debatable," said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month. "We expect NATO to respect Turkey's rights in this process and support us in preventing tensions."