Cyprus issues notice to seafarers ahead of new natural gas drill

NICOSIA, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) — Cyprus issued a notice to mariners on Saturday, creating a security zone around an area about 95 kilometers of its south shores, ahead of a new exploratory drill for natural gas, the state-run Cyprus News Agency reported.

The drill, which has already led to tension between the eastern Mediterranean island and its northern neighbor Turkey, will be carried out on behalf of American energy giant ExxonMobil in association with Qatar Petroleum and is scheduled to start on Nov. 15.

The notice to mariners advises seafarers to keep at least 500 meters away from the spot of the drilling, code named “Delphinus” in block 10 of the Cypriot exclusive economic zone.

Turkey had issued its own notices to mariners in the past and harassed drilling platforms and drill ships which had carried out exploration within the Cypriot exclusive economic zone from 2012 onwards.

However, it didn’t this time in the case of the ExxonMobil drilling, with Cypriot media reporting that the United States has warned Ankara to keep away from the drill area.

Sixth American fleet ships have been reported to be sailing close to the drill spot.

Turkey started a drilling in retaliation using its newly acquired drill ship somewhere between its southern shores and the northern shores of Cyprus.

Turkish troops occupied the northern part of Cyprus in a 1974 military operation in reaction to a coup by the military rulers of Greece. Since then Ankara does not recognize the existence of the Republic of Cyprus, a United Nations and European Union member state.

Instead, it declared a breakaway state in the occupied part of Cyprus which is recognized only by Turkey.

Turkey claims sovereignty over the Cypriot exclusive economic zone either for itself or on behalf of the breakaway state it calls the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Turkey sent warships in the eastern Mediterranean in February, preventing a scheduled drilling on behalf of Italian ENI in block 3, the most northeastern region of the Cypriot exclusive economic zone.

ENI and the U.S.-based Noble Energy have already discovered two natural gas fields in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone with a total potential of about 10.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Cyprus News Agency reported that a drill ship called “Stena IceMax” is two days away from the Cypriot port of Limassol, where it will sail in preparation for next Thursday’s drilling.

Cypriot officials and ExxonMobil said they have great expectations from this drilling, as block 10 adjoins the mammoth Egyptian Zohr field drilled by ENI, with a reported potential of about 30 trillion cubic feet, the largest ever marine gas field to be discovered so far.

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