Cyprus retracts claim that Turkey stole gas data

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Cyprus government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos retracted claims that Turkey may have stolen technical data on block 8 in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone allegedly used to target an area for gas drilling.

He said that the word “stolen” he used on Greece’s state broadcaster ERT on Wednesday was a mistaken “slip of the tongue” and that no such data theft had occurred.

But he said Turkey had obtained some data that enabled it to send a drillship to a specific location off the Limassol coast that energy companies Eni and Total had pre-selected to carry out their own exploratory drilling.

Koushos said that data may have been collected from a Turkish research vessel, that had scoured the area in search of geological information that could hint at gas deposits locked underneath the seabed.

He said the Turkish research vessel Barbaros had scanned the area for almost two years.

Turkish drillship Yavuz arrived last weekend in Cyprus’ EEZ block 8 which is licensed for exploration to Italy’s Eni and France’s Total.

Correcting his earlier statements Koushos said it is unclear whether Turkish authorities could have obtained some information about block 8 from Cyprus’ Environment Ministry’s own website.

The Environmental Department confirmed on Thursday it had posted Eni-provided geological data about the area back in 2017 on their website.

In comments to Politis radio, head of the environment department, Costas Hadjipanayiotou confirmed reports that studies on block 8 were posted online for a few days in 2017 but were taken down after objections from Eni and the government.

Hadjipanayiotou clarified that those studies did not provide information on the reserves but on environmental aspects.

After the incident, the law changed in 2018 and the publication of studies linked with issues of national interest is now forbidden.

Koushos noted in his statements on Thursday that Cyprus’ EEZ is legally and politically protected.

He referred to bilateral agreements signed with a number of countries for the delimitation of the EEZ.

He also said that the EEZ enjoys political protection, though trilateral agreements, the signing of an intergovernmental agreement on the EastMed pipeline and the support Nicosia enjoys from a range of neighbouring countries, the EU, Russia, the US and Britain.