A few days ago, Turkish Navy conducted military exercises with live firing in areas which included part of the Cyprus EEZ. In parallel, turkish seismographic research ship Barbaros have initiated a series of research to identify the possibility of Oil and Gas in the area south of Cyprus. These activities violate the EEZ of Cyprus and raise tension in the area.
Turkey had released two NAVTEX (one in Thursday and the other in Friday) which inform mariners and ships sailing in the international waters that for research purposes dipping of submarine hydrophones would be done in Area 6 of Cyprus EEZ, so a wide part of that area will be binded. Also during Friday, live firing drills took place in a big part of Area 6 and 7 of Cyprus EEZ. The duration of the drills was approximately 2 hours.
In 2 of May, Turkey have delivered a Letter of Intent (LOI) in the United Nations warning Greece, Cyprus and gas companies ENI-TOTAL that it will defend its territorial rights in the naval area south of Cyprus with any means (!). With this letter, it also specifies the disputed Area which covers a big part of Area 6 of Cyprus EEZ.
This is a late response to the decision of the Cyprus Government (7 March) to give the extraction and research rights to ENI TOTAL for the Area 6, to ENI for Area 8 and area 10 was given to Εxxon Mobil Qatar Petroleum. Following this decision, TOTAL is expected to conduct the first research drilling till the end of 2017.
In another incident on Friday when seismographic Barbaros entered in EEZ of Cyprus, a vessel of the Cyprus Coastguard approached them, asking to leave the area because they were conducting unauthorized and illegal research in the Cyprus EEZ. The response of the Captain of the Barbaros was rather hostile, playing a military song named Mehter Marsi. This song is used during the training of Turkish Special Forces Unit and is acknowledged as the anthem of Yenitsars. Yenitsars was an elite Medieval army group consisting of elite troops.
This would be an expected behavior from a military naval ship but not from a civil research ship like Barbaros RV. Barbaros ship is the ex Polarcus Samur. It was purchased in 2013 by state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation. It was renamed in honor of the renowned Ottoman Navy admiral Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha (1478-1546). Thus, even if it is a research vessel, the intentions of the Turkish Authorities were rather obvious from the start of its Turkish career.
The operational capabilities of the ship are the following:
Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa is able to deploy up to eight streamers each of 6,000 m (20,000 ft) length, or six streamers each of 8,000 m (26,000 ft) length, with lateral streamer separations of between 25–200 m (82–656 ft), and can tow both conventional and wide tow spreads. She obtains 2D and 3D data. The ship has also a helideck for use with a Sikorsky S-70 helicopter on board. It is a rather modern oceanographic ship which consists of the most technologically advanced seismic and navigation systems available today.
The vessel will remain till the end of June in an arc of the area that covers Ammohostos and Saint Paul in Cyprus. After the end of its trip it will return to the Antalya port in Turkey.
Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister, Nikos Kotzias said that «Greece is going to help Cyprus if needed in case of a «Hot» Incident in the Eastern Mediterranean». This would also include military action including the presence of naval frigates and submarines in the Area if asked. Greek Minister also expressed his doubts what we have ever been close to a solution of the Divided Cyprus problem during the negotiations in Geneva last December.
The fact that ENI-TOTAL first research drilling will be done in July of 2017, right after the research of Barbaros, creates more questions and doubts about the reactions of Turkey?
The non-existent Cyprus navy creates a gap in the defense capabilities offered by Cyprus to the international drilling companies. The political an economic instability in Greece might obscure a proper military presence in the area. Turkey’s aggression will be getting worse day by day.
In case of harassment of the civil research ships of ENI-TOTAL, it is unclear if other naval armed forces like French or Italian navy will approach the area or a counter-offer will be given to Turkey ?
Time, time will tell…