Turkey Deploys Drillship to Waters Off Southern Cyprus

The Yavuz sets sail on her controversial drilling campaign, 2019 (Turkiye Petrolerii)

Published Jan 20, 2020 10:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Sunday, Turkey upped the ante in its dispute with Cyprus over drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. For the first time, it has deployed a drillship to an area south of the island, the region where the Cypriot government has bid out gas exploration leases to international companies like Eni and ExxonMobil. 

“Our drillship, Yavuz, was relocated on [January 17] to the Block G in the south of the island in order to conduct its third drilling activity as part of the licenses given to Turkish Petroleum in 2011 by the [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] government,” wrote the Turkish Foreign Ministry in a statement. “The EU has remained silent to the usurpation of the rights of our country and Turkish Cypriots in the eastern Mediterranean since 2003. It has not mentioned the Turkish Cypriots in any of its statements and ignored the rights and presence of the Turkish Cypriots."

The international community does not recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which has governed the north half of the island since its conflict with the (predominately Greek) southern half in the 1970s. The Cypriot capital in Nicosia is the internationally-recognized government for the island and its EEZ. 

The government of Cyprus vigorously opposes Turkey's drilling activity on the Cypriot shelf. Last June, it issued arrest warrants for multiple crewmembers aboard the Turkish drillship Fatih for their involvement in the drilling campaign. Turkey's Foreign Ministry denounced the warrants as "null and void" and threatened to carry out a "necessary response" if any of the Fatih's crewmembers were arrested.

Turkey also opposes Cyprus' drillng activity in Cypriot waters. In February 2018, Turkish warships physically blocked the Eni-chartered drillship Saipem 12000 from transiting to Cypriot Lease Block 3, which is located off the island's east coast. Eni purchased the exploration rights to the block from Cyprus, but the area is also claimed by Northern Cyprus with support from Turkey.