Eni chief: No drilling off Cyprus if Turkish warships appear

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The chief executive of Italian energy firm Eni said Thursday his company won’t go ahead with any gas drilling in Mediterranean waters off Cyprus if warships approach the area.

Italian news agency ANSA quoted Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi as saying he doesn’t want “to have a war break out to drill wells.”

Descalzi told reporters in Rome that he isn’t concerned about a warship-escorted Turkish drill ship that has sailed into an area were Eni and partner Total of France are licensed by Cyprus to conduct a hydrocarbons search.

Turkish officials have said the drill ship Yavuz is poised to start drilling soon.

Eni and Total are licensed to jointly search 7 of 13 blocks that make up Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.

Turkey, which doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state, says it’s acting to protect its interests and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots over the area’s energy reserves.

Turkey’s actions drew sharp criticism from several European Union member states and other countries. The Cyprus government has called the move a “severe escalation” of Turkey’s disregard of international law and vowed to use all legal and diplomatic means to fight it.

Turkey had earlier dispatched another drill ship, which is currently drilling inside waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.

Last year, Turkish warships physically blocked a drill ship leased by Eni to drill an exploratory well in another area where the Italian company is licensed to carry out a gas search southeast of Cyprus.