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Turkey warned off oil companies participating in the bidding round for tracts offshore Greek Cyprus and spudded an onshore well in the Turkish-controlled region of Cyprus.
On May 18, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey issued a warning to oil companies in its efforts to curtail exploration and drilling activities south of Cyprus.
“It goes without saying that any activity of international oil companies in these areas will definitely lead to new problems,” the ministry stated in a press release.
“Therefore, like TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), Turkey also urges the countries concerned and the relevant oil companies to act with common sense and particularly refrain from any activity in these areas which are disputed especially due to the Cyprus issue, and withdraw from the said tender,” the ministry continued.
Companies that enter into cooperation with the Greek Cypriot Administration (GCA) regarding oil and gas exploration while ignoring the rights of the Turkish Cypriots will be responsible for tension in the region, the ministry claimed.
“Moreover, as was stated by our prime minister, those companies cooperating with GCA will not be allowed to take part in Turkey’s future energy projects,” the government emphasized.
This is the latest skirmish between Turkey and most other countries in the region over which country owns the trillions of cubic feet of natural gas that have been already discovered off southern Cyprus and the trillions of cubic feet yet to be found.
As part of its saber-rattling, Turkey has also authorized the Turkish Petroleum Co. (TPAO) to drill a well onshore in TRNC.
The Turkyurdu-1 well was spudded in northwest TRNC recently. The well was expected to take four months to drill to a depth of 3,000 m (9,900 ft) at a cost of $400,000. Whether or not there are any geological targets in the well remains to be seen.
The well seems to be more of a symbol of Turkey’s claims in the area than legitimate exploration. Turkey’s energy minister, Taner Yildiz, was at the wellsite at the start of drilling operations. He even emphasized that the government wasn’t expecting to find oil or gas.
The map (Fig. 1) shows just how much of the continental shelf that Turkey claims around Cyprus. Since Turkey is the only country that recognizes TRNC, it is hard to understand the basis for the claim.
|Figure 1: Turkey backs the claims of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus for much of the continental shelf around the island. (Map courtesy of Turkish Petroleum Corp.)|
As Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted, “Certain parts of the maritime areas west of the island included in the so-called tender opened by GCA overlap with Turkey’s continental shelf in the Mediterranean Sea. Turkey, as was already declared before, will not allow any activity over these areas.
“On the other hand, most of the maritime areas south of the island included in this so-called tender overlap with the license areas given to the TPAO by TRNC. Any activity of international oil companies in these areas in future would bring them into confrontation with TRNC and TPAO and cause undesired tension.”
Turkey continues to push its claim over Cyprus. Turkey invaded the island in 1974, which ended up in its division into the Turkish north and Greek Cypriot south. The south is internationally recognized while Turkey is the only country that recognizes the north.
When massive natural gas reserves were found off Greek Cyprus and Israel, Turkey was quick to push its claim to the resources.
“The Turkish Cypriots, like the Greek Cypriots, have equal and inherent rights over the natural resources located on the whole continental shelf of the island. Disregarding this reality is not acceptable both to Turkey and TRNC. The two peoples of the Island should jointly decide on how to use the offshore natural gas and oil resources,” the foreign ministry said.
Turkey is not a member of the European Union (EU), while southern Cyprus is. A day after Turkey relaunched its bid to join the EU, it issued the warning to the oil companies.
Contact the author, Scott Weeden, at firstname.lastname@example.org.