Cyprus petitions ICC over Turkey's offshore drilling

©Agence France-Presse

Turkish drilling under naval escort in waters the Cyprus government regards as within its exclusive economic zone has prompted appeals for European Union support as well as a petition to the International Court of Justice

Nicosia (AFP) - Cyprus has petitioned the International Court of Justice at The Hague to protect its offshore gas reserves from meddling by Turkey, President Nicos Anastasiades said Thursday.   

“We have said we will use every legitimate and legal weapon, in every international forum, to defend the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus, and the petition to the The Hague has this purpose,” Anastasiades told reporters.

The island's internationally recognised government felt compelled to seek the judgement of the court after Turkish authorities sent drill ships into what it regards as its exclusive economic zone.

The Greek Cypriot dominated government has pushed ahead with offshore oil and gas exploration despite the collapse in 2017 of UN-backed talks on ending the island’s decades-long division.

That has angered Turkey, which has had troops stationed in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island since 1974 when it seized it in response to a Greek Cypriot coup in Nicosia seeking union with Greece.

Cyprus is a member state of the European Union and Turkish drilling operations inside the island's exclusive economic zone have prompted the bloc to draw up a legal framework for sanctions on individuals and firms involved in them.

Turkey does not recognise the Cyprus government, regarding it as an exclusively Greek Cypriot administration with no right to maritime boundaries until a comprehensive peace deal for the island has been achieved.

Anastasiades said an initial attempt to deliver a notice of his government's intentions to the Turkish embassy in Athens was denied.

“So, it was sent via other means, there is proof it was received and this gives us the right to recourse.”

In February, ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum made the biggest gas find off Cyprus so far, discovering a field holding an estimated five to eight trillion cubic feet.

Italy’s ENI and Total of France have also been heavily involved in exploring for offshore oil and gas.