NICOSIA – Stepping up provocations, Turkey said it would send energy research vessels into waters off Cyprus, an area where Ankara warned international companies licensed by the island’s legitimate government not to drill for oil and gas.
Turkey on Sept. 6 issued two navigational telexes (NAVTEX) declaring it would unlawfully be in the area of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) southwest of Paphos, as it has before with no action by Cyprus nor the international community.
Cyprus’ government – which has no power in the northern third of the island occupied by Turkey and its army since an unlawful invasion in 1974 – said the NAVTEX orders were unlawful, as it has before, but nothing has been done to stop Turkey.
Despite recent Turkish activities around Cyprus, the government said that gas exploration in Block 11 has not been impacted. Turkey also has demanded a share of any energy finds in waters where it has no rights and as it does not recognize Cyprus’s right to explore for gas in its EEZ, nor recognizes Cyprus at all.
That tension came as US energy giant ExxonMobil said it would drill in the area in the second half of 2018. Speaking at a presentation in Nicosia, ExxonMobil’s Vice President for Europe, Russia and the Caspian, Tristan Aspray, said that “preparations for two exploration wells are targeted to begin in the second half of 2018 and future steps are dependent on exploration results.”
He was at a joint press conference with Cypriot Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis and added that added that 3D seismic data acquisition had been completed, geophysical data was being finalized and drilling contracts and shaft design are in progress for the project, the Chinese news agency Xinhua said.
ExxonMobil paid no attention to Turkey’s earlier warnings that international companies shouldn’t operate off Cyprus.
Cypriot sources said the agency that Turkish naval ships carried out a half-day exercise using live munition southwest of Cyprus close to where Exxon-Mobil obtained a concession for drilling.
Aspray said there’s an opportunity to find possible hydrocarbon deposits off the coast.
He said that ExxonMobil, in association with Qatar Petroleum which is a partner in the project, would participate in building a natural gas liquefaction plant in Cyprus if gas finds warranted it.
Aspray also said that the proximity of the Cypriot EEZ to the mammoth Egyptian Zohr gas discovery offered significant exploration possibilities.
But he cautioned and said there is “still considerable uncertainty about drilling results, as geology can change significantly over short distances.”
Cypriot Energy Minister Lakkotrypis said that Cyprus will soon announce the results of a drilling which was started almost two months ago by French Total, in association with Italian ENI, in a nearby Cypriot block.