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.
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.
Nicosia and Ankara started disputing over search plans for the hydrocarbons of the Republic of Cyprus in its exclusive economic zone back in 2011.
#Turkey extends its fleet power around Block 3 of #Cyprus’s economic zone.— EHA News (@eha_news) 23 февраля 2018 г.
In addition to 2 frigate, 1 corvette, 2 assault boat, 1 bunker barge;
1 submarine and 1 corvette has been sent to the region by #Turkish Military.
(via: @TRex_SSS) pic.twitter.com/UO1CdOavqM
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.
#Enis drilling ship #Saipem12000 is leaving #Cyprus #EEZ drill in #block3 is postponed. #Turkey remains in the area with a strong military presence (5 war ships) #EastMed #naturalgas pic.twitter.com/rXp7bcPg6F— John Ioannou (@JohnPikpas) 23 февраля 2018 г.
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.