On Friday a US Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Ross arrived at Souda becoming the second 6th fleet destroyer to be deployed in the eastern Mediterranean, local media reported Sunday.
According to the same reports, the arrival of USS Ross at Souda Bay appears to be partly linked to the commencement next week of hydrocarbon drilling operations in plot 10 of the Cypriot EEZ.
Exxon-Mobil’s UK flagged drill ship Stena Icemax has already entered the Mediterranean last week, sailing eastwards towards Limassol.
Ankara objects to any oil explorations in the eastern Mediterranean that do not involve Turkey and earlier this year the Turkish navy obstructed Italian oil company’s ENI drillship in the same area, forcing it to withdraw. Speaking at a naval ceremony Sunday, President Erdogan reiterated that Turkey would never accept any hydrocarbon exploration “excluding our country and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”
The US government is believed to have made it clear that it will protect US business interests in the area and the reported presence of two destroyers appear to reinforce that point. Other observers, however, point out that cover to oil exploration ships is routinely offered as part of anti-terrorist security measures.
The Republic of Cyprus has issued a NAVTEX restriction on the area of plot 10 in force from 10/11 to 25/02 2018.