Cyprus demands Turkish energy exploration vessel withdraws

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Nicosia on Wednesday demanded that Turkish seismic research vessel Barbaros – hunting for oil and gas reserves – immediately ceases its illegal activity in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.

A maritime notice (NAVTEX) issued by Cyprus’ Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) said that  Turkey’s plans to conduct an energy survey in Cypriot waters until February 16 are “unauthorised and illegal”.

Turkey announced the Barbaros and supporting vessels Tanux 1 and Apollo Moon would conduct operations inside designated Cyprus waters.

“This action constitutes a violation of international law and maritime safety procedures and it is also a criminal offence under the laws of the Republic of Cyprus,” the JRCC NAVTEX said.

It said that the Republic of Cyprus demands that the Barbaros “immediately cease her illegal actions”.

Ankara has sent on several occasions seismic research vessels to Cyprus’ EEZ, to conduct unauthorised drilling activities of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean, in areas licensed by Nicosia to US, French and Italian energy companies.

The EU has denounced such moves as illegal and threatened tougher sanctions against Turkey if it did not withdraw its vessels.

In late summer, Turkey dispatched another research vessel escorted by warships to conduct seismic surveys in a part of the Mediterranean Sea that Greece claims as its territory, which prompted the Greek government to deploy its navy.

Turkey pulled the research ship back to shore for several weeks for maintenance and to allow time for diplomacy but redeployed the Oruc Reis on a new energy exploration mission.