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Turkey plans to start drilling in East Med on October 29

The Turkish drillship Fatih

Turkey plans its exploratory drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean on October 29, it was reported on Monday.

Ankara said last week it’s drilling vessel Fatih had already arrived onsite and that training would be conducted with drilling at the end of the month.

Necdet Pamir, the Chairman of the Energy Commission of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and also the chairman of the Committee on Energy Policies of the Chamber of Petroleum Engineers of Turkey, told Sputnik on Monday that the start of exploratory drilling planned for October 29 had a symbolic meaning.

“On this day the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey is celebrated. Thus, in the Minister’s statement indicates that there an emphasis on the country’s national interests. In recent years, large-scale hydrocarbon exploration has been carried out in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and large reserves of natural gas have been found in the zone belonging to Israel. We are talking about 1 trillion cubic metres of gas,” he said.

Pamir criticised the drilling by the Cyprus government “contrary to Turkish law”, and said Turkish Cypriots also had a right to gas reserves.

“However, unfortunately, the Greek side prefers to speculate on this issue, turning it into a bargaining tool,” he added.

“The EU and the US are supporting the Greek side in its carrot and stick strategy. In this difficult situation, the presence of Turkey’s own seismic vessel and drilling platform is very important.”

According to Sputnik, Pamir also stressed that the move by Turkey would strengthen the positions of Ankara and the ‘TRNC’ during Cyprus negotiations.

“If Turkey can find a gas field during the exploration of hydrocarbons that will go on for five months, it will help put an end to the irresponsible and unfair negotiating format which is demonstrated by the Greek side. The Greeks will be forced to change their tactics, and perhaps the whole course of the negotiation process will change. In addition, this step could both help Turkey meet its gas needs and solve the problem of electricity needs of the TRNC,” he said.

Andreas Pentaras, the former head of the Cyprus Intelligence Service, also spoke to  Sputnik and said if Turkey started drilling off the coast of Cyprus it could lead to a serious crisis.

Pentaras said that although Turkey has not specified the exact location for its drilling plans, previous statements suggested it would be near Antalya and Messina.

“At the moment we do not know whether this decision is still in force or whether exploratory work will be carried out elsewhere,” Pentaras said, adding that Turkey has also illegally appropriated most of the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus to the west of Paphos.

Ankara appropriated about 30 per cent of the area of blocks 4, 5, 6 and 7 and does not allow Cyprus or other states to operate there. He also referred to Turkish media, according to which drilling will be carried out between blocks 8 and 9 belonging to the Republic of Cyprus.

“Therefore, if Turkey’s exploratory drilling will occur in these territories, in other words, in territories belonging to the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Greece, problems will arise that will lead to a crisis.” Pentaras told Sputnik.

“You understand that if all this is true, we will enter into a serious crisis, and no one knows what kind of consequences it can lead to.”

Pentaras said Cyprus and Greece had already taken some steps, in particular, an appeal for the use of “a number of preventive measures by the EU and the UN.”

“The Republic of Cyprus has no military means to prevent such actions on the part of Turkey and will be limited to diplomacy,” he added. Pentaras said he believed that if exploratory drilling took place in certain areas it could lead to a serious crisis and in this case, Greece would have to act, “and this may including military means”. However, he said it would not be likely to reach that stage.

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