France and Greek Cyprus have signed a deal that will allow French warships to use a naval dock on the island of Cyprus, Greek-American weekly newspaper the National Herald reported last Friday.
The deal has come amid rising tensions over energy exploration rights around the island, where Turkey has moved to block Greek Cyprus and its partners – including France’s Total – from exploiting the potentially rich eastern Mediterranean hydrocarbon reserves.
The statement of intent signed last week by Cypriot Defense Minister Savvas Angelides and French defense chief Florence Parly also sets out an upgrade to the dock at Mari on the island’s southern coast to allow the docking of larger warships, the National Herald reported.
Turkey rejects the Greek Cypriots’ rights to unilaterally tap hydrocarbon reserves around the island, which it says would contravene the rights of Turkish Cypriot whose breakaway administration controls the north of the island.
Turkey also claims a part of the exclusive economic zone agreed by Greek Cyprus and its neighbors lies on its own continental shelf and is, therefore, Turkey’s to exploit.
But the increased French involvement may prove costly to Turkey’s plans, which have included sending two surveying vessels to search for hydrocarbons west of Cyprus.
“The operational center of the French warships will be the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle which is patrolling the Eastern Mediterranean in an area near where Turkey is sending two research vessels to look for oil and gas, violating Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone”, the National Herald said.
Earlier this month, the arrival of the Turkish drillship Fatih in an area claimed by the Greek Cypriot administration in its EEZ sparked outrage among EU leaders and elicited threats of arrest from the Cypriot authorities.
London-based pan-Arab news outlet Asharq al-Awsat reported on Monday that the French had agreed to deter Turkish exploration around Cyprus as part of the statement of intent.
A French-Italian consortium including energy companies Eni and Total began to expand its presence in the Cyprus EEZ early in May, Greek daily Ekathimerini reported.