Turkey withdraws drillship from Cyprus waters

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Nicosia heralded the withdrawal of Turkish drillship Yavuz from Cyprus waters as a positive step but said it would continue to monitor developments.

The move comes after last week’s European Council which warned Turkey to de-escalate tensions in the eastern Mediterranean or face repercussions from Brussels.

EU leaders said they would review the situation in December after declaring full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus.

Cypriot government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos told CNA that this was a move contributing to the creation of a positive climate.

“We don’t know yet if the withdrawal is permanent,” Koushos said.

He said the Turkish seismic research vessel Barbaros is still present in block 3 of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone while Ankara continues with its threats to re-open fenced-off Varosha.

Nicosia will follow developments, to be in a better position to evaluate the situation, Koushos said.

Ankara has sent on several occasions its Barbaros vessel to Cyprus’ EEZ, following the Republic’s decision, in 2011, to start exploratory offshore drilling.

In May 2019, Turkey sent two drillships, Fatih and Yavuz to conduct unauthorised drilling in areas licensed by Cyprus to international energy companies.

In February 2020, the European Council placed two persons under restrictive measures, in relation to Turkey`s unauthorised drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Last week, EU leaders strongly condemned violations of the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus, saying that they must stop.

The European Council also called on Ankara to accept the invitation by Cyprus to engage in dialogue, with the objective of settling all maritime-related disputes between the two countries.

The EU also warned, in case of renewed unilateral actions by Turkey it would contemplate sanctions in December.

Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz has left Block 6 inside Cyprus’ EEZ in a move seen as a step toward a possible de-escalation of tensions.

The vessel had been scheduled to leave area southwest of the island on October 12, according to Turkey’s unauthorized navigational telex (Navtex).

The Navtex for Barbaros expires on October 18.