Cyprus Mail
Cyprus Energy

Ankara’s gas objections ‘provocative and unacceptable’

Officials carrying the applications for the third licensing round last month

 

If Ankara objects to the third hydrocarbons exploration round launched by Cyprus, it can act through peaceful means by taking recourse to international forums, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

It was responding to a statement issued a day earlier by Turkey’s own foreign ministry, which warned energy companies bidding for offshore Block 6 that any exploratory activity is unauthorised since part of the block lies within the Turkish continental shelf – a claim supported only by Turkey.

Block 6 is located southwest of the island.

Turkey, on the basis of its own maps, has laid claim to part of Block 6 in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), as it does not recognise that the Republic has its own EEZ.

More broadly, Turkey’s claims partly overlap with Cyprus’ blocks 1, 4, 6 and 7.

Responding to Ankara’s statement, the foreign ministry said it is a repeat of “Turkey’s well known, unacceptable and legally baseless views, and an expression of its provocative and destabilising stance”.

“The Republic of Cyprus is determined to protect its sovereign rights, using all means available to it via international law. If Turkey questions these rights, it has but to act peacefully and seek the internationally prescribed legal remedies.”

Turkey is not a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The ministry added that the interest shown by major oil and gas companies “is the best response to the Turkish claims”.

It was referring to the fact that Italy’s ENI and France’s Total have put in a joint bid to explore for hydrocarbons in Block 6.

“The Republic of Cyprus is determined to move forward with exploiting its natural resources, particularly its hydrocarbons resources, in order to promote economic growth and prosperity for all the people of Cyprus, without discrimination,” the statement said.

“With the solution of the Cyprus problem, all the people of Cyprus will be able to benefit from this wealth. Thus, Turkey has only but to cooperate and work toward achieving a settlement.”

The ministry reiterated that the ongoing reunification talks on the island “are not linked, in any way, to the exercise of these [sovereign] rights.”

This time, the Turkish reaction was somewhat delayed, coming several days after the government here announced the names of the companies bidding in the third hydrocarbons round.

That announcement was made on July 27, five days after the deadline for official expressions of interest.

Energy analyst Charles Ellinas says one shouldn’t expect any further actions from Turkey at this point.

“They are just going through the motions, reiterating their well-known position with regard to Cyprus’ maritime jurisdiction. At this stage, there is no sense in Turkey making a huge fuss,” Ellinas told the Cyprus Mail.

A more concrete reaction might be expected once physical activity happens in Block 6 – but that is far down the line.

At any rate, the awarding of concessions in the acreage put up for auction – blocks 6, 8 and 10 – is not expected until around January 2017.

As a parenthesis, Ellinas said that the government was under no obligation to award a licence for any of the blocks.

But following the awarding of the licences, the first exploration activity – such as seismic surveys – will likely take place sometime in 2018.

“And by the time the companies have carried out all the preparatory work, including leasing the drilling platforms, we are talking about 2019, so it’s a long way off,” said the expert.

Ellinas pointed out that both Total and ENI were fully aware of Turkey’s claims beforehand, but bid for Block 6 regardless.

ENI S.p.A. is an Italian multinational oil and gas company headquartered in Rome. The name “ENI” was initially the acronym of “Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi” (national hydrocarbons authority). Though ENI is no longer a state-owned oil company, the Italian government owns 30 per cent of the company’s shares.

The French state does not hold a stake in Total, but the company works closely with the French government.

Regarding Block 6, the energy ministry’s website cites seismic data, which point to promising gas targets there that are similar in structure – sand formations – to Aphrodite, Tamar and Leviathan.

 

 

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