Cypriot Government sources played down remarks by ENI’s CEO who said his company would not drill off Cyprus if it meant having to deal with warships.
The sources, requesting anonymity, told the Cyprus Mail that the comments by ENI boss Claudio Descalzi were “logical and to be expected.”
“What else could he have said? That they would defy Turkish warships?”
Regardless, the same sources added, Cyprus would not put on hold its gas exploration programme.
Earlier in the day, Descalzi was quoted as saying by AFP news agency that his company ENI would not risk prospecting off Cyprus if the area was a hot zone. “I am not worried… (but) if someone turns up with warships, I won’t drill wells,” he said. “I certainly don’t want to start wars for wells,” Descalzi told journalists on the sidelines of an event in Rome.
Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Kudret Ozersay was later quoted as welcoming Descalzi’s remarks, saying they indicated that Turkey’s strategy on resources around the island was paying off.
Timewise, Descalzi’s comments coincided with the arrival of a Turkish drillship, the Yavuz, in block 7 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, which Ankara does not recognise.
En route to its destination, the Yavuz had been escorted by two Turkish frigates.
Block 7 was licensed to ENI and France’s Total in an agreement signed in Nicosia last month. Turkey claims that approximately a third of block 7 – southwest of Cyprus – falls within its continental shelf.
ENI has already had run-ins with Turkish naval presence off Cyprus. In February 2018, a drillship leased by the company was prevented from reaching a drilling target in block 3, southeast of the island.
The vessel was blocked by Turkish warships, on the pretext they were conducting war games in the area. After a two-week standoff, the drillship withdrew and returned to port. ENI cancelled the operation.
Cyprus has accused Turkey of a “severe escalation” of violations of its sovereign rights.
Turkey has already drilled wells in waters to the east and west of the island, triggering strong protests from Nicosia and the European Union in recent months, including EU sanctions.
Ankara says it is protecting the rights of the Turkish Cypriots but also has its own claims in the region.