The stand-off between Ankara and the Italian energy giant ENI in Cyprus’ EEZ is viewed by Turkey as a crash test in its efforts to keep the Republic of Cyprus from exercising its sovereign rights within its maritime boundaries, which have proven rich in gas and oil deposits.

From Ankara’s standpoint, Italy is the weakest link among the Western powers whose companies are engaging in drilling in Cyprus EEZ, the other’s being France’s Total and the American giant ExxonMobil, which is considered effectively as an arm of US foreign policy.

ENI is now poised to begin explorations in Block 3 of Cyprus’ EEZ, with the SAIPEM 1200 drill, but Ankara has effectively blockaded the area.

“Eni has been present in Cyprus since 2013 and detains interests in six licenses located in the EEZ of Cyprus (in Blocks 2, 3, 6, 8, 9 and 11), five of which are operated,” the company website notes.

If Turkey succeeds in blocking ENI now, that will have much broader implications for Cyprus’ hydrocarbons programme, and could potentially influence Exxon Mobil’s decisions.

Fresh hydrocarbons discoveries in yet another of Cyprus’ EEZ blocks have raised the stakes even higher from the point of view of Ankara, which insists that the Turkish occupation regime in northern Cyprus must co-administer energy exploration, though the breakaway state there is recognised only by Ankara.

“Eni has made a lean gas discovery in Block 6 Offshore Cyprus with Calypso 1 NFW. The well, which was drilled in 2,074 meters of water depth, reaching a final total depth of 3,827 meters, encountered an extended gas column in rocks of Miocene and Cretaceous age. The Cretaceous sequence has excellent reservoir characteristics,” the company said in an 8 February announcement.

Calypso has been compared to Egypt’s Zohr gas field, which contains 30 trillion cubic feet.
“The findings are encouraging. A reserve has been located but the morphology of the particular target is complicated so we need more time…I won’t talk about quantities or anything else,” Cyprus Energy Minister Yorgos Lakkotrypis said recently.

In July and August, 2018, ExxonMobil is scheduled to drill in block 10, which is considered one of the most energy-rich blocks in Cyprus’ EEZ

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