From news article:
Russia has sent two nuclear-powered submarines to patrol Eastern Mediterranean waters around Cyprus and enforce the island's right to explore for undersea oil and gas in its territorial seas, according to information from Defencenet.gr, citing a Russian FM spokesman.
Alexander Lukashevich said that Russia supports Cyprus and guarantees its security if it is threatened: "Under the UN Convention on International Law, among 162 other signatory states, including Cyprus, each state has sovereign rights in its EEZ for exploring, exploiting and protecting both live and non-living natural resources, including water, the seabed and subsoil," said Lukashevich in comments made on August 19th and reported by Defencenet.gr (in Greek).
The submarines are due in early September and are being interpreted as a clear warning to Turkey to stay away from Noble Energy's drilling sites in Block 12. Noble is set to start exploring for undersea gas at the beginning of October along with Israeli energy company DELEK, which has reached an agreement with Noble Energy to share in its licensing deal with Cyprus, reported Globes.co.il.
Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis just wrapped up a visit to Israel to discuss undersea hydrocarbon exploration with President of Israel Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. Israel and Cyprus' interests are closely aligned after the two countries signed an agreement delimiting their maritime borders in late 2010. The agreement also led to cooperation on undersea reserves exploitation and closer diplomatic relations, with Peres expected to visit Cyprus in the near future.
Turkey has also not yet commented on the development and is one of the countries which has not signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas[*], which has been in force since 1994. There are 162 countries that have ratified the Convention, including Cyprus and Greece.
[*] I did not know that.
Part XI and the 1994 Agreement
Part XI of the Convention provides for a regime relating to minerals on the seabed outside any state's territorial waters or EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zones). It establishes an International Seabed Authority (ISA) to authorize seabed exploration and mining and collect and distribute the seabed mining royalty.
The United States objected to the provisions of Part XI of the Convention on several grounds, arguing that the treaty was unfavorable to American economic and security interests. Due to Part XI, the United States refused to ratify the UNCLOS, although it expressed agreement with the remaining provisions of the Convention.
From 1983 to 1990, the United States accepted all but Part XI as customary international law, while attempting to establish an alternative regime for exploitation of the minerals of the deep seabed. An agreement was made with other seabed mining nations and licenses were granted to four international consortia. Concurrently, the Preparatory Commission was established to prepare for the eventual coming into force of the Convention-recognized claims by applicants, sponsored by signatories of the Convention. Overlaps between the two groups were resolved, but a decline in the demand for minerals from the seabed made the seabed regime significantly less relevant. In addition, the decline of Socialism and the fall of Communism in the late 1980s had removed much of the support for some of the more contentious Part XI provisions.
In 1990, consultations were begun between signatories and non-signatories (including the United States) over the possibility of modifying the Convention to allow the industrialized countries to join the Convention. The resulting 1994 Agreement on Implementation was adopted as a binding international Convention. It mandated that key articles, including those on limitation of seabed production and mandatory technology transfer, would not be applied, that the United States, if it became a member, would be guaranteed a seat on the Council of the International Seabed Authority, and finally, that voting would be done in groups, with each group able to block decisions on substantive matters. The 1994 Agreement also established a Finance Committee that would originate the financial decisions of the Authority, to which the largest donors would automatically be members and in which decisions would be made by consensus.
On February 1, 2011, the Seabed Disputes Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) issued an advisory opinion concerning the legal responsibilities and obligations of States Parties to the Convention with respect to the sponsorship of activities in the Area in accordance with Part XI of the Convention and the 1994 Agreement. The advisory opinion was issued in response to a formal request made by the International Seabed Authority following two prior applications the Authority's Legal and Technical Commission had received from the Republics of Nauru and Tonga regarding proposed activities (a plan of work to explore for polymetallic nodules) to be undertaken in the Area by two State-sponsored contractors (Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (sponsored by the Republic of Nauru) and Tonga Offshore Mining Ltd. (sponsored by the Kingdom of Tonga). The advisory opinion set forth the international legal responsibilities and obligations of Sponsoring States AND the Authority to ensure that sponsored activities do not harm the marine environment, consistent with the applicable provisions of UNCLOS Part XI, Authority regulations, ITLOS case law, other international environmental treaties, and Principle 15 of the UN Rio Declaration.