Turkey sends drillship to ‘Cyprus area’
Turkey has again expressed its intention to drill for hydrocarbons in the waters near the divided island of Cyprus, where Turkish troops have been present since 1974.
Ankara has been closely watching proceedings in the Eastern Mediterranean over the last decade as natural gas reservoirs have been discovered in the Cypriot EEZ and offshore Israel.
The Turkish-Cypriot administration, which is backed solely by Turkey and which once wanted independence and recognition as a separate state, claims an equal share in the island’s gas discoveries and inclusion in deciding on its hydrocarbon programme.
To that end, in 2011 the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus awarded a large area of the Cypriot EEZ to Turkish state oil firm TPAO.
Turkey itself claims a large portion of the Cypriot EEZ, which is mapped out in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as its continental shelf. Ankara has repeatedly said that it will protect Turkish-Cypriot rights and last year sent five warships to warn off a drillship hired by Italy’s Eni that was approaching a drill site far to the south of the island.
During a meeting in Nicosia on January 25 with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey would send a drillship to the “Cyprus area” next month.
Last year Turkey acquired the Fatih drillship and Cavusoglu said that a second would be delivered in February. “We were going to send it to the Black Sea, now we are sending it to the Cyprus area. Our drillship Fatih is currently in the Alanya-1 area. Its work there will be done in March. We are shifting that to the south too,” Cavusoglu said.
He added that Ankara had taken this decision because the Republic of Cyprus – a member of the EU, internationally recognised and this week hosting the Summit of Southern EU Countries – had failed to accept Turkey’s “suggestions” that ensure the rights of Turkish-Cypriots.
The government of Cyprus has said repeatedly that all Cypriot citizens, excluding Turkish settlers living in northern Cyprus, will share the benefits of any and all hydrocarbon discoveries and their monetisation once there is a settlement to the 45-year-old Cyprus problem.
Efforts are underway now to convene a new round of talks between the Republic and the Turkish-Cypriot administration. The last round failed last year because Turkey insisted on being the guarantor of any agreement and keeping troops stationed on the island.
The Cypriot Foreign Ministry dismissed Turkey’s claims that its efforts in the East Med to prevent exploration are intended to safeguard the rights of Turkish-Cypriots.
Cavusoglu has also recently called for East Med gas to be exported through Turkey, which is another major concern for Ankara. A pipeline carrying Cypriot and Israeli gas to Turkey and then on to Europe would give Turkey easy access to the region’s gas resources.
With the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) and Russia’s TurkStream pipelines arriving in Europe via Turkey, an East Med gas pipeline doing the same would effectively give Turkey a monopoly over southern gas supply routes to Europe.
Turkey has also been angered recently by an agreement by Cyprus, Israel, Greece and Italy to support the EastMed Gas Pipeline project, which aims to build a subsea pipeline stretching 2,000 km to Greece and on to Italy. Egypt has also expressed interest in participating in the project, which would bypass Turkey completely.
Furthermore, there are ongoing talks to send Cypriot and Israel gas to Egypt for process in two LNG plants there with the intention of marketing that LNG in Europe.
For its part, Greece is planning a new 5 million tpy LNG terminal in the northern Aegean port of Alexandroupolis that could be used for the LNG’s delivery.
Bigger still, earlier this month Egypt, Cyprus, Israel, Greece, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority met in Cairo to form the East Mediterranean Gas Forum. The organisation intends to co-ordinate natural gas exploration and development and the infrastructure the region will need to establish itself as a regional gas hub. The members said that the organisation would be open to new members in the future.
ExxonMobil is close to completing its second well in Block 10 offshore Cyprus. The US super-major finished Delphine, its first well in the Cypriot EEZ, in January and the Stena IceMAX drillship started the Glafcos well straight after.
No announcement has been made as to the results of the Delphine well. Speculation in the Cypriot media has suggested that test results from both wells might not be announced until a later date.