Eni will not relinquish interests in Cyprus amid Turkey dispute

Eni's logo is seen in front of its headquarters in San Donato Milanese, near Milan, Italy, April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo

PAVIA, Italy, Feb 22 (Reuters) – Italy’s Eni will probably have to move a drilling ship blocked by Turkey off Cyprus, but will not relinquish its interests in the area, the oil major’s CEO said on Thursday.

“We’re used to having potential disputes … we did not pull out of Libya or other countries where there were complicated situations,” Claudio Descalzi said on the sidelines of an event.

On Feb. 9, the Turkish navy on manoeuvres in the Mediterranean stopped the Saipem 12000 vessel on its way to drill for gas in the waters off Cyprus, triggering a diplomatic standoff.

Turkey, which does not have diplomatic relations with Cyprus, claims that certain areas in the ethnically-split island’s offshore maritime zone fall under its jurisdiction.

Two weeks ago, Eni announced a big gas find in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone in an area it said was geologically similar to its giant Zohr field in Egypt.

Descalzi said last Friday he was surprised by the Turkish move since Eni had two other wells in the area that had never caused problems.

Sources familiar with the matter said the Italian foreign office was working through diplomatic channels to resolve the standoff.

It is very likely the drilling ship will have to be moved to a new location in coming days, probably Morocco, Descalzi said.

“Then we’ll come back, waiting for international, European, Turkish, Greek and Cypriot diplomacy to find a solution,” he said.

This week Turkey issued a new navigational advisory extending military training in the area to March 10 from Feb. 22 previously.

On Wednesday, Cyprus said it would press ahead with oil and gas exploration in its waters, signalling resolve in its standoff with Turkey over energy riches. (Reporting by Giancarlo Navach, Writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Isla Binnie and Mark Potter)


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