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ENERGY: Tensions rise as Cyprus fires arrest warrants at Turkish drill ship crew

14 June, 2019

Nicosia has issued arrest warrants for the crew of a Turkish drill ship anchored off the Cyprus coast after infringing its exclusive economic zone, a foreign ministry official said.


"We can confirm that warrants were issued. It's a double digit number," a Cypriot official told Reuters, declining further comment.

Turkey said on June 10 that reports of the arrest warrants -- which had at that point not been confirmed by Nicosia -- "crossed the line".

The two countries have been at odds since the 1974 ethnic conflict that split the island between its Greek and Turkish Cypriot populations, and over recent natural gas finds in the seas surrounding Cyprus.

"No one should have any doubt that the necessary response will be given, in case of such an insolence," a Turkish foreign ministry spokesperson said then.

A Turkish drill ship, the Fatih, has been anchored west of Cyprus since 4 May, and another drill vessel, the Yavuz, is scheduled to be deployed east of the island soon.

Both areas within Cyprus’ EEZ, where it has commercial rights to explore for hydrocarbons. Turkey maintains an area west of Cyprus is its own continental shelf.

The issuing of a double-digit international arrest warrants by Cyprus does not settle the issue, but puts pressure on Turkey, diplomatic sources told CNA.

They argued the arrest warrants have yielded some results against the Turkish plans to proceed with a drilling operation, for which Turkey needs the help of others in order to move forward. For such a drilling process to take place more than a month is required. 

Nicosia is already taking legal measures against companies that cooperate with the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) in the Cypriot continental shelf/EEZ.

Under the national legislation, direct or indirect involvement of any company or its affiliates, without the express authorization of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, constitutes serious criminal offence. Fines are more than one million euros and/or five years imprisonment. 

Diplomatic sources said there is no clear information on whether Turkey has started drilling.

 

Norwegian crew helping the Turkish have departed with now only Turks being used, the sources said.

The presence of a Turkish drill ship off the coast of Cyprus is costing Ankara an estimated $500,000 a day.

Nicosia has submitted to the UN the geographical coordinates of its north and northwest limit of its continental shelf/EEZ.

The move was made to highlight the exact limits of Cyprus’ continental shelf/EEZ, giving the message to foreign companies cooperating with Ankara that any violation of these limits is a violation of the laws of the Republic of Cyprus.

Cyprus and Turkey could appeal to an international dispute settlement mechanism for the delimitation of their maritime zones, but Ankara is not a party to UNCLOS and does not accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.