08:13 GMT13 July 2020
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    France’s Total in consortium with Italy's Eni resumed the appraisal drilling of the gas fields in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus. Turkey has hammered the energy consortium for it and is considering a “response.”

    Block 11, for which the consortium holds an exploration license, is located close to Aphrodite, a big recently discovered Cypriot gas field, and only 40 kilometers away from the Egyptian gas field Zohr, the biggest field in the eastern Mediterranean. The domestic gas requirements of Cyprus are estimated to be modest, so there are huge export possibilities even providing for the possibility of constructing a pipeline jointly with Greece and Israel, according to data from Energy Intelligence Group, as cited by Vedomosti.

    In April the three countries agreed to move forward with a Mediterranean pipeline project to carry natural gas to Europe, setting a target date of 2025 for completion. In June, a trilateral heads of state meeting dedicated to the topic took place in Thessaloniki, Greece. The estimated cost of the project would be up to 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion).

    Turkey insists that the Republic of Cyprus doesn't have an exclusive right to the island's hydrocarbon resources, and seeks to have an ability to use the gas fields and buy cheap gas, which does not seem easy because of the French company's presence.

    Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 following a Greek Cypriot coup led by militants hoping to reunify the country with Greece. Established in 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized as a sovereign state only by Ankara. The international community considers it to be part of the Republic of Cyprus.

    In July, Turkey sent two ships and a submarine to monitor a drilling vessel contracted by Total and Eni. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the oil companies to be careful they did not lose a "friend" by participating in the exploitation of hydrocarbon deposits around Cyprus. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called the Cypriot moves "untimely and dangerous."

    In response, the Defense Ministers of France and Italy conducted official visits to Cyprus, at the invitation of the Cypriot Minister of Defense Christoforos Fokaides.

    "Turkey will not succumb to provocations. Turkey will not carry out a military intervention in Cyprus in the wake of the French and Italian actions. At least, not instantly," Turkish diplomat Oktay Aksoy told Sputnik.

    "We will turn to NATO first, as we are members of the Alliance. We will try to explain the situation. However, if the Alliance takes the side of the European countries, Turkey will take stringent measures on its own, up to direct interference in the internal affairs of the island."

    These events took place just five days after the collapse of the Crans-Montana talks to reunify the divided island nation, which remains split between ethnic Greek and Turkish Cypriots, on July 7. The leaders of the two Cypriot communities, the foreign ministers of Great Britain, Greece and Turkey and EU observers failed to come to an agreement.

    Cyprus News Agency cites a "reliable source" as saying Turkey refused to withdraw its military contingent from the island. Turkey's stance on the issue became the stumbling block of the negotiations. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, the UK's Permanent Representative to the UN, said, commenting on the talks: "We called for a time of reflection and pause and we encouraged the parties not to get in any sort of blame game."

    "Having accepted Cyprus, with all its unsolved problems, the European Union has committed the irreparable. The Greek Cypriots are completely satisfied with the existing situation. They are the EU members and claim to represent the whole island. That's why they are not interested in the settlement of the Cyprus problem," Aksoy said.


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