Fears Ease Over Attack from Turkish Warships in EEZ
Fears of an attack from Turkish warships in the waters around Cyprus have eased following a statement from Defence Minister Demetris Iliades, who said that there are no immediate threats of a military incident in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Speaking from Athens in comments reported by OnAlerg.gr, Iliades said that US and Israeli warplanes are patrolling Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone with government permission.
In the past several months, Turkey has made a number of threatening moves; sending warships to Cyprus' EEZ and announcing that it will start drilling for offshore hydrocarbons near occupied Famagusta.
Turkey's threats followed the Cyprus government's decision to move forward with its contract with US company Noble Energy, which started drilling for undersea natural gas in September. In a tit-for-tat move, Ankara signed an agreement with the breakaway north to explore for oil and gas. In a particularly provocative gesture, Turkish research ship K. Piri Reis was dispatched into Cyprus waters accompanied by a warship, where it carried out research in international waters to the south of the island. Turkey has controlled the northern areas of Cyprus since its invasion in 1974.
Analysts said that Turkey sent the ship in the hopes of provoking a military incident which it could use to make a claim on territory it does not directly control. But the Ministry of Defence did not react, saying that the ship was in international waters and had every right to be there. K. Piri Reis has since left Cyprus waters.
Meanwhile, Noble Energy said it has discovered an estimated 3-9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in Block 12. Cyprus' needs for 30 years would be covered by 1 tcf, so early indications are seen as positive. A second bidding round for exploration rights has since been launched and the government said that there is high interest from international energy companies.
Exploiting gas and oil reserves could transform the island's economy. Oil reserves alone have an estimated value of 450 billion dollars, say experts. But without a solution between the island's main communities, uncertainty will prevail.
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