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    The Homer Ferrington gas drilling rig, operated by Noble Energy and drilling in an offshore block on concession from the Cypriot government, is seen during President Demetris Christofias' visit in the east Mediterranean, Nicosia November 21, 2011

    Trouble in the Med: Turkey Reportedly Threatens to Attack Italian Drillship

    © REUTERS / Cyprus Public Information Office/Handout/File Photo
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    Claudio Descalzi, chief executive of the Italian energy giant Eni, has made it plain that his company would continue its exploration off Cyprus despite the ongoing standoff between Nicosia and Ankara over exploring the area for natural gas

    The Cyprus News Agency cited Cypriot officials as saying that a flotilla of Turkish warships have threatened to engage a drillship of the Italian oil and gas company Eni amid its efforts to break a blockade.

    "On its course toward block 3, it was blocked by five Turkish warships, and after threats to use force and engage with the drillship, despite the courageous efforts of the captain, it was forced to turn back," deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said.

    Eni chief Claudio Descalzi, for his part, downplayed the standoff, stressing that his company would continue exploring gas off the coast of Cyprus and that it awaits a diplomatic solution to the problem.

    "We are used to the possibility of disputes. We didn't leave Libya or other countries where there had been complex situations. This is the last of my worries. We are completely calm," Eni pointed out. Turkish officials have yet to comment on the matter.

    The two's remarks came more than a week after Greece's Foreign Ministry expressed dissatisfaction over Ankara considering certain areas in Cyprus' offshore maritime zone, known as an EEZ, to be under the jurisdiction of Turkey – something that prevents Cyprus from exploring the area for natural gas.

    Turkey rejects what it slams as a "unilateral" search for resources by the Cypriot government, saying that it neglects the rights of the seceded Turkish Cypriots to the island's natural resources, which endangers regional security.

    READ MORE: Divided Cyprus: How UK, Turkey, Greece Can Finally Cut the Gordian Knot

    Nicosia and Ankara started disputing over search plans for the hydrocarbons of the Republic of Cyprus in its exclusive economic zone back in 2011.

    Greek Cypriots run Cyprus' internationally-acknowledged government, while northern Cyprus-based Turkish Cypriots, who run a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, say resources around the island belong to them too.

    Cyprus was de facto split in 1974 when Turkey invaded the island after a coup staged by supporters of unification with Greece.  Turkey remains the only country to recognize the Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and keeps more than 35,000 troops in Cyprus' north.

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    Tags:
    oil and gas, standoff, warships, government, energy, Eni, Turkey, Cyprus
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