The Cypriot Ministry of Energy officially announced the start of exploration drilling of in block 11 with the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) at the “Onesifiros-West 1” target, which is expected to last for 75 days.
The statement said the drilling rights were conceded to the joint consortium of Total E& P Cyprus B.V Eni Cyprus Limited. According to the official announcement, the drilling rig “West Capella”, which will be used for the exploration is at the point of interest as of 1.30pm, Wednesday, where after stabilisation procedures of the platform have been completed the necessary control tests will take place. The drilling will reportedly be completed within the next 75 days, at a minimum depth of approximately 4,250 metres below sea level and water depth at the site of 1,698 metres. Meanwhile, the presence of a naval force from Greece, France, Israel and the US near the site cannot be overlooked. Two French frigates, which were part of the UN’s peacekeeping forces in Lebanon sailed to Cyprus and docked at the port of Larnaka to provide security.
In addition to the two French frigates, the American aircraft carrier George Bush, an Israeli Corvette and Greek gunboat Nikiphoros were anchored in close proximity to block 11. The start of the drilling has raised tensions between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey, as the latter responded to a NAVTEX and NOTAM issued by Cyprus by issuing its own in Cypriot territorial waters. Turkey has threatened Cyprus against moving ahead with drilling in the area as it claims the potential wealth belongs to the quasi-state of Northern Cyprus should share in any potential wealth. The Northern-Cypriot community is not recognised by any UN member state but Turkey, which has had a military presence there since it invaded in 1974.