ATHENS – Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades criticised Turkey at the EU leaders summit in Sibiu, Romania saying Ankara’s “illegal actions” to drill in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are causing an “unprecedented escalation” in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“This is by far the most serious violation of Cyprus’ sovereign rights in a very long time and we’re now facing an unprecedented escalation of Turkey’s illegal actions in the eastern Mediterranean,” AP quoted Anastasiades as telling other leaders from a meeting of the European People’s Party (EPP) ahead of the summit on 9 May. “Essentially, these actions are tantamount to a new invasion of Cyprus by Turkey after the tragic events of 1974,” Anastasiades said in reference to a Turkish invasion of the northern part of Cyprus and resulted in a still-unresolved frozen conflict that has left the island divided between an unrecognised Turkish puppet state in the north and the EU-member government in the south.

Cypriot authorities say the Turkish drillship Fatih is anchored about 68 kilometres off the southwestern Cypriot resort town of Paphos, escorted by support ships and a Turkish navy frigate, but hasn’t started drilling yet, AP reported.

US energy giant ExxonMobil, Noble Energy, France’s Total, and Italy’s ENI are licensed to drill offshore Cyprus.

On the sidelines of a conference by the Institute for Energy in South East Europe in Athens on 9 May, IENE Executive Director Costis Stambolis told New Europe that Turkey’s actions will not threaten the operations of the international energy majors drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ. “No, I don’t think it’s threatened. Simply the game is changing. The game is becoming more tense, is becoming a little harder.

They’re playing hardball so it’s a game only for big boys and the big boys are there. I mean ExxonMobil is there, Total is there, ENI is there – these are the big boys. They’re already involved and they appear to be committed,” Stambolis said, explaining that “whatever the Turks do in terms of drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ”, is not going to have an affect on Nicosia’s hydrocarbons exploration plans with international majors because Turkey is drilling outside Cyprus’ 12 blocks.

“The Turkish move is, I think, geared at sending a message that is more political and diplomatic and meant to say, ‘we are here!’. This is part of our sea territory, maritime territory and we are determined to actually claim it,’” Stambolis said.