Cyprus issues advisory for gas drill starting mid-July

Cyprus on Sunday issued a maritime advisory for a natural gas drill from July to October in a step opposed by Turkey, which challenges the divided island’s jurisdiction to search for hydrocarbons. 
The island has contractual obligations with France’s Total which won an offshore exploration licence from the Republic and was scheduled to commence drilling this year.

It takes place as the United Nations plans to start a new bid in the coming week to end the decades-old conflict which has split Cyprus between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

In an advisory on its website posted Sunday, Cyprus’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre said the West Capella drill ship would be conducting a ‘drilling operation’ off Cyprus from July 10 to Oct. 15.

The coordinates suggest an area south-west of the island, covering a region where Total secured exploration rights and where the company said it planned to start drilling this year.

Turkey, which backs a breakaway state in north Cyprus, has previously expressed strong objections to attempts by the island’s internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government to explore for hydrocarbons. Greek Cypriots say it is their sovereign right, and say that endeavour and attempts to find a settlement to the island’s long running division are separate issues.

Cyprus made its first offshore discovery of gas in 2011, but recent large discoveries, including the massive Zohr field offshore Egypt – and which is close to its own licensing areas – has given new impetus to the effort.

Peace talks are scheduled to start at Crans Montana, Switzerland, on June 28. The negotiations will also include Turkey, Britain and Greece which are guarantor powers of the island under a treaty which granted the former colony independence in 1960.

The island was divided when Turkey invaded its north in 1974, triggered by a brief Greek inspired coup