Turkish surveyor Piri Reis begins explorations, Cyprus gov’t declines to comment

Undersea research for natural gas will continue regardless of Turkish diplomatic pressure or actions in the eastern Mediterranean, the Cyprus government said on Monday. The Republic has weighed all the facts and decided to proceed with exploratory drilling. The Cyprus-Mail  quoted government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou as saying that the Cyprus government has taken a political decision to initiate a second round of licensing in blocks lying within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The spokesman was commenting on reports according to which the president and his administration considered temporarily shelving plans for undersea research in order not to jeopardise ongoing peace talks with Turkish Cypriots.

He declined comment on news reports claiming a Turkish research vessel, the Piri Reis, rounded the Cape of Akamas in the northwest of the island and was situated off Paphos. “There has been a great deal of reports…over the past few days. The government acts on the basis of facts,” he said. Asked whether the ship was in the area mentioned, Stefanou offered: “We shall see.” 
The Anatolia news agency reported that the Piri Reis was in the eastern Mediterranean exploring for gas and oil. “We expect the ship to arrive at noon to the region where exploration will start. The team will start seismological research in the afternoon, after it reaches the region whose [geographical] position was specified,” said Huseyin Avni Benli, the head of the institute that owns the ship, Anatolia reported. Benli did not elaborate on the ship’s exact destination. Built in 1978, the Piri Reis is able to carry out two-dimensional seismic surveys up to a depth of 1200 metres.

Euro parliament to discuss tension in Eastern Mediterranean

Meanwhile press reports on Tuesday said that the European Parliament is today planning to hold a debate later on this evening following a statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton on the dispute between Turkey and Cyprus over oil and gas exploration, which was raised by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at the UN General Assembly last week.

The pda.trend website said in a report that MPs are increasingly concerned at the growing tensions between EU candidate-country Turkey and EU Member State Cyprus since Turkey sent a ship on Friday to drill for gas and oil in waters to the north of the divided island of Cyprus, after the Government of the Republic of Cyprus announced last Tuesday that drilling for gas had begun in waters to the south east. Turkey has questioned the right of Cyprus to issue contracts for natural gas drilling.

Papandreou holds talks with Erdogan

In Athens Greek prime minister George Papandreou called for self-restraint and calm with respect to security issues in the Middle East, adding that Cyprus, as a sovereign state, has the right to decide on its actions and stressing that unilateral actions that could create problems in the region should be avoided, in a telephone contact on Monday with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to Greek government spokesman Elias Mossialos. A report from the Greek state news agency quoted the spokesman as saying that the Papandreou-Erdogan discussion had not been impromptu but took place in view of the meeting the two premiers had been scheduled to have in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Finally the OnlyCy news agency announced that the Israeli government reportedly asked the Cypriot permission to use the “Andreas Papandreou” airbase in Paphos in exchange for ensuring the air defence of the Republic and changing the military balance in the region. This request comes after the recent incidents of harassment of a Cyprus Airways flight and the continuous violations of Cypriot airspace south and east of Paphos. In the “A. Papandreou” AB, the Cypriot government has built the necessary infrastructure for hosting and supporting fighter aircraft, while nearly a decade ago F-16 fighter jets of the HAF had stationed for a short time at the AB under the joint defence area doctrine between Greece and Cyprus.

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