Chased off once by Turkish warships, Italy’s Eni has joined with France’s Total in a joint bid for another license to look for oil and gas off Cyprus despite more warnings Turkey would try teo stop them.
Cypriot officials said the two companies want to go ahead as the US’s ExxonMobil, defying Turkey, has begun looking in another area of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) even though Turkish officials said it could be a cause for war.
Cypriot officials in the legitimate government that is a member of the European Union were said to be confident that Turkey won’t tangle with ExxonMobil, fearing a conflict with nearby warships of the US Sixth Fleet.
An Eni research vessel veered off earlier this year as it approached a site where it has a license with Turkish warships reportedly warning it would be sunk otherwise, with the prospect of potentially lucrative finds setting off more tension in the region.
In October, Cyprus invited Total, Eni and ExxonMobil to bid for the unclaimed block 7 of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“An application was received on November 26, as part of the procedure for a Hydrocarbon Exploration Licence for block 7, by Total/Eni,” the Energy Ministry said, Agence France Presse reported with the government deciding to go ahead due to “very specific geological reasons” after a discovery in block 6 announced by Eni in February. ENI is the operator of block 6 with a 50% interest and Total has the other 50%.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry last month urged foreign companies “to act with common sense and to duly consider the realities on the ground,” and has been bellicose all year, claiming Turkey owns part of the Cypriot EEZ and that it would protect its rights, suggesting military force.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who offered to share energy revenues with Turkish-Cypriots who’ve occupied the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion, walked away from reunification talks in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to remove an army and wanted the right to militarily intervene again when they wanted.
After ExxonMobil defied him and went ahead with driling, Erdogan also warned foreign energy firms not to “overstep the mark” in disputed waters.
Texas-based Noble Energy in 2011 made the first discovery off Cyprus in a block estimated to contain around 4.5 trillion cubic feet (130 billion cubic meters) of gas that has yet to be commercialized.
The discovery of Egypt’s huge Zohr offshore reservoir in 2015 kindled speculation Cypriot waters could be a bounty of oil and gas too. Cyprus wants natural gas to start flowing to Egypt’s LNG facility in 2022.