Turkey's confrontation with an Italian drilling ship in the eastern Mediterranean Sea could quickly reach crisis proportions. As I noted in an Al-Monitor story Dec. 26, developments were warning of growing tension between Turkey and the Greek Cypriots over newly discovered hydrocarbon reserves south of the island.
Indeed, the first hot military standoff of 2018 started Feb. 9 between the Turkish navy and the Saipem 12000 drilling ship of Italy's ENI SpA, which is licensed by the Greek Cypriot administration to explore hydrocarbon reserves south of the island. As the Saipem 12000 was sailing from the area known as Block 6 southwest of the island toward Block 3, Turkish naval vessels approached within 5 miles of it. The Saipem 12000 halted some 15 nautical miles from its destination in Block 3, an area 70 kilometers (43 miles) off the coast of Cape Greco on the southeastern tip of the island.