The Turkish seismographic vessel Barbaros has as of 17 October been off the coast of Cyprus at the margins of blocs 4 and 5 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and is preparing for illegal gas exploration following the issuance of a NAVTEX (navigational warning) which violates the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus in its EEZ.

Turkey is escalating tensions in an effort to undermine Cyprus’ gas exploration deals by exploring for hydrocarbons in Cyprus’ EEZ, especially in bloc 7, and creating a de facto situation that will benefit Ankara in its objective of actively establishing itself in the geostrategic energy game in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In view of the start of exploration by ExxonMobil in bloc 10, and possible exercises that will bolster Ankara’s provocative stance, the whole enterprise appears to be at a razor’s edge.

Greek frigate Nikiforos Fokas shadows Turkey’s Barbaros

HS Nikiforos Fokas is only a few nautical miles from the Barbaros, which is reportedly in plain sight of the Greek frigate.

The Greek warship has remained within the limits of Greece’s continental shelf and is shadowing the Barbaros in a signal that Greece has the necessary deterrent force.

Other Hellenic Navy units are reportedly on alert, in order to hasten to the area if necessary.

Effectively, Ankara has marshaled the NAVTEX in an effort to dispute Cyprus’ EEZ and the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus, the only internationally recognised state entity on the island.

For Turkey, the Republic of Cyprus is not a state

In response to a NAVTEX  issued by the Republic of Cyprus and characterising Turkish exploration as illegal, as only the JRRC (Joint Rescue Coordination Center) in Larnaca has authority to issue a NAVTEX in Cyprus’ EEZ, Turkey maintains that it has rights “based on international law”, as in Ankara’s view the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus is not a state.

The Barbaros will conduct exploration over an area of 44,000 square kilometres.

Fatih drill on its way

The southeastern edge of the area tied up by the Turkish NAVTEX is at a distance of about 100 kilometres of the first two ExxonMobil drilling targets, in bloc 10 of Cyprus’ EEZ. The western edge of the area is 220 kilometres from Rhodes, and the eastern edge is 150 kilometres from the coast of Paphos.

Sources say that within hours or days, the Turkish drill Fatih (conqueror in Turkish) will set out for the drilling area.