Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that a rig recently acquired by his country would soon set course for the Mediterranean to conduct exploratory drilling for hydrocarbons.
“We possess one of the largest drillships in the world, 36m wide. Soon our drillship will be en route to the Mediterranean to carry out its first drill,” Erdogan said.
Speaking at an event in Ankara, the Turkish leader reiterated that his country is determined to pursue gas drilling in the Mediterranean Sea, “in order to protect our rights as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
“No one can violate the Turkish Cypriots’ rights,” he added, evidently alluding to the Greek Cypriots.
“We shall proceed together. We shall invest in this together. The delegation that will take shape, the team that will arise, will be conducting drills for all and whatever is discovered will be shared between North and South Cyprus according to their population.”
Erdogan was referring to the Korean-built Deep Sea Metro 2 drillship which is currently moored in the Sea of Marmara undergoing repairs.
His remarks come days ahead of an EU-Turkey leaders’ meeting taking place on March 26 in Varna, Bulgaria.
Last month, Turkish warships prevented Italian energy company ENI from drilling in a field inside block 3 of the Republic’s EEZ.
Turkey does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, nor therefore the latter’s jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
In September 2001, Turkey and the breakaway regime in the north signed a ‘continental shelf delimitation agreement’.
Turkey’s claims on the island’s EEZ partly overlap with Cyprus’ blocks 1, 4, 6 and 7. Ankara also supports the breakaway regime’s claims on blocks 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 12 and 13, including within few kilometres from the Aphrodite gas field.
In November last year, Turkey’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak said his country planned to start drilling in the Mediterranean in 2018 – without specifying whether the operations would take place in the sea between Turkey and the north of the island or inside the Republic’s EEZ.
The Turkish Cypriots recently renewed an agreement with Turkey’s state energy company (Tpao) for another six years for offshore hydrocarbon exploration activities.