Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Five vessels from the Turkish military have stopped a drillship commissioned by an Italian company to drill in the waters offshore Cyprus, an official said.
The Cyprus News Agency reported the Saipem 12000 drillship commissioned by Eni was stopped by the Turkish military Friday morning as it tried to reach its target in the Mediterranean Sea. A deputy government spokesperson was quoted as saying the drillship was the target of "threats of violence" and the "threat of a collision."
The Italian energy company made a natural gas discovery in what it said was the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus in early February. Eni said the discovery was "Zohr-like," suggesting it was on par with a major find off the coast of Egypt.
Friday's encounter is at least the second since the Eni discovery was declared. The company has been working offshore Cyprus since 2013 and maintains interests in six license areas.
After an encounter earlier this year, the Turkish government said the blame for any escalation of the situation that could arise from the offshore stalemate rests with Cyprus. The Greek side of the island, it said, is out of line with its unilateral claim to oil and gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean waters.
Cypriot licensing rounds have been thwarted by geopolitical rows. More than 40 years after a Turkish military invasion, regional differences have presented a series of road blocks for development in the island nation.
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the government of Cyprus of taking unilateral action with its hydrocarbon exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. The ministry questioned the Cypriot claims of jurisdiction and said any further action was counter to "the inalienable rights on natural resources of the Turkish Cypriot people, who are the co-owners of the island."
There were no comments on the latest escalation from the companies involved or the Turkish government.