NICOSIA, July 12 (Reuters) – The ‘West Capella’ drilling vessel contracted by France’s Total and Italy’s ENI moved into position to start exploring for gas off Cyprus on Wednesday, the island’s energy ministry said.

The drilling work, which is a contractual obligation between Total and Cyprus, comes days after the acrimonious collapse of talks to reunify the divided island nation, split between ethnic Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

Turkey, which invaded Cyprus’s north in 1974 in response to a brief Greek inspired coup, says the island’s internationally recognised government has no jurisdiction to explore for hydrocarbons.

The ‘Onesiphoros West 1′ well is estimated to be completed within approximately 75 days, Cyprus’s energy ministry said in a statement.

The two companies have licensing rights over the block, which lies about 6 km away from Zohr, a massive offshore Egyptian gas find made by ENI in 2015.

Last month Cyprus issued a Navtex advisory to inform shipping in the area that drilling work would run from July 10 until early October.

The drilling is expected to reach a maximum depth of around 4.25 kilometres (2.6 miles) below mean sea level, or 1.6 kilometres beneath the sea bed, the energy ministry said.

(Reporting By Michele Kambas; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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