NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Italian company Eni is committed to carrying on its search for gas off the east Mediterranean island of Cyprus despite Turkey’s strong opposition, the Cypriot government said Thursday.
A statement said Eni is “determined to fulfill its obligations” under its contracts with Cyprus to carry out exploratory drilling in six areas off Cyprus where it has been licensed do to so.
The assurance came after Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides met with Eni Executive Vice President Lapo Pistelli in Rome.
The two men agreed on the significance of the eastern Mediterranean as an essential gas source for the region and Europe.
Last month, Turkish warships blocked a rig from reaching an area southeast of Cyprus where Eni was scheduled to drill.
Turkey’s government said it would prevent any further drilling off Cyprus without the direct involvement of the ethnically divided island’s breakaway Turkish Cypriots.
The island was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded in response to a coup by supporters of union with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is recognized only by Turkey.
Cyprus’ government says the hydrocarbon search is its sovereign right and it will continue because it will benefit all Cypriot citizens. It insists any potential proceeds will be divided equitably after a deal reunifying the island is reached.
This week two research vessels arrived in Cyprus to carry out preliminary environmental and archaeological surveys of an area southwest of Cyprus where ExxonMobil and partners Qatar Petroleum are to carry out exploratory drilling later this year.
France’s Total is also licensed to drill off Cyprus. In earlier drilling, US company Noble Energy discovered a gas deposit southeast of Cyprus estimated to hold over 4 trillion cubic feet of gas.