Turkey will not allow the exploitation of gas reserves in Turkish and north Cypriot waters, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the delivery of a naval corvette and submarine, Erdogan said countries that thought they could operate in the east Mediterranean or Aegean seas without Ankara’s agreement were mistaken.
“We will not accept attempts to extract natural resources in our country, Cyprus or in the eastern Mediterranean,” Erdogan said.
Turkey and Cyprus have overlapping claims of marine jurisdiction and both plan to carry out exploratory drills this year.
The vessel leased by energy giant ExxonMobil to drill for gas off the coast of Cyprus is already on its way to the island.
The Stena IceMax drillship, flying a United Kingdom flag, was scheduled to arrive off Limassol on Monday, November 12. The drillship is expected to begin boring down into the seabed on or around November 15, at a location in offshore block 10 dubbed ‘Delfini’.
Cyprus is believed to be rich in natural gas, and attempts to tap resources there have revived tensions between Turkey and Greece, which has a defence protection pact with the Republic of Cyprus.
Turkish Cypriots too have raised their opposition to the Republic of Cyprus’ hydrocarbon programme, which they say is a unilateral move, maintaining that any offshore wealth also belongs to them, as partners in the establishment of the Cyprus republic in 1960. The Cypriot government, however, says that any future benefits of gas finds will eventually be shared by all Cypriots once a settlement solution to the Cyprus problem is achieved.
A Turkish ship was to start drilling for oil and gas in the Mediterranean last week.
Turkey’s Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said last week that drilling ship “Fatih” would begin drilling at the Alanya-1 borehole, located 100 kilometres (60 miles) off the southern province of Antalya and 60 kilometres off Antalya’s Alanya district, a move that could create tensions with neighbouring Cyprus and Greece over jurisdiction.
The first borehole will be some distance from the disputed territory, which lies further south and around Cyprus.Donmez said that Turkey was also very close to buying another drillship.
Last Friday, Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides said that Nicosia wants Turkey to be involved in the energy developments in the region, but it has first to help solve the Cyprus problem.
“A pre-requisite for this is that Turkey realises that it has much more to lose than gain from the current status quo, which prevents Ankara from participating in the web of cooperation in our neighbourhood,” he said.
Christodoulides recalled that Turkey has in the last six months almost on a daily basis been making statements threatening Cyprus and all those companies participating in the Cyprus EEZ.
He said that Nicosia will not follow this Turkish approach. Nicosia, he said, wants Turkey to be involved in the energy developments in the region but in order to be in a position to examine this possibility, Turkey has to solve the Cyprus problem, otherwise, for Nicosia the option is not there. It is up to Turkey, he said, adding that Ankara has to work to solve the Cyprus issue.
At the same summit Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said that Cyprus is discussing a new wave of the exploration programmes with the licensees in its EEZ.
Last month Turkey complained that a Greek frigate had harassed a Turkish exploration ship west of Cyprus. Greece denied the charge and Cyprus accused Turkey of stirring up tensions.