Following Italian energy company ENI's drillship Saipem 12000's rigging operations after it announced the discovery of natural resources in the exclusive economic zone, which was unilaterally declared by Greek Cypriot administration, but was forced to halt its drilling activities off the Cyprus island in late February after facing deterrence by Turkish warships, research vessels belonging to U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil and state-owned Qatar Petroleum consortium were reported to have arrived in the eastern Mediterranean to conduct offshore drilling activities, reports said yesterday.
The Turkish government said numerous times it will not allow the Greek Cypriot government to proceed with a "unilateral" offshore gas search as long as the rights of Turkish Cyprus to the natural resources of the island are being ignored.
Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Feb. 28 that two more research vessels will arrive in the eastern Mediterranean to conduct further research. The report by the newspaper said the research vessels belonging to ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum consortium will start work on parcel number 10 to conduct a field survey prior to the drilling work scheduled to be launched in the fall this year.
Meanwhile in April 2017, Greek Cyprus signed an agreement with ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum to grant oil exploration rights off Cyprus, while the Foreign Affairs Ministry stressed that continuation of unilateral activities of the Greek Cypriot administration by acting as the sole proprietor of the island was alarming and unacceptable.The ENI-operated Saipem 12000 vessel was prevented by the Turkish Navy from reaching an area off the eastern Mediterranean island nation where it was to start exploratory drilling for gas and was told not to continue "because there would be military activities in the destination area." The Italian rig left Cyprus on Feb. 23 without conducting any activities in block number three in the Greek Cypriot administration's exclusive economic zone.
In early February, the hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean have again ignited disputes between the Greek Cypriot administration, Greece, the EU and Turkey. Following the Italian energy firm ENI's rigging operations after the company announced the discovery of natural resources with its French partner Total in the area, which is called the 6th Block in the so-called exclusive economic zone unilaterally declared by the Greek Cypriot administration. Seeing the matter as a violation of rights of Turkish Cypriots, Turkey sent warships to the area to block the Italian ENI from exploring for gas.
In February, Greek Cyprus announced that ENI and partner Total had discovered a potentially sizable gas field off its southwestern coast that is close to Egypt's Zohr deposit, which is the largest-ever discovered in the Mediterranean.
The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island's Turks and Ankara's intervention as a guarantor power. It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including the latest initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the U.K. collapsing in 2017.