Unable to keep French and American energy companies from drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus where they are licensed to look, Turkey said it would begin its own hunt for energy near the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) parts of which it doesn’t recognize.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year was able to scare off an Italian company by sending warships to confront the energy research vessel but France’s Total and the US energy giant ExxonMobil ignored warnings to back off.
Instead, Turkey said it would soon begin drilling itself, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Feb. 21, the state-run Anadoly News Agency reported.
“In the coming days we will start drilling with two ships around Cyprus,” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying in a speech to a business conference in western Turkey’s Aydin province.
“Let those who come to the region from far away, and their companies, see that nothing can be done in that region without us. Nothing at all can be done in the Mediterranean without Turkey, we will not allow that,” Cavusoglu said.
Turkey launched its first drillship Fatih in October to drill off the coast of Turkey’s southern Antalya province and a second ship set to operate in the Black Sea will also be diverted to look off Cyprus.
Turkey’s claims in the island’s EEZ overlap with Cyprus’ blocks 1, 4, 6 and 7. Turkey also backs assertions by the Turkish-Cypriot side of the divided island for rival claims on seven other blocks within a few miles of the Aphrodite gas field in block12.
Erdogan demanded Turkish-Cypriots living in the northern third unlawfully occupied since a 1974 Turkish invasion get a share of any potentially lucrative finds, to which Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades agreed, but Turkey wants a hand in licensing foreign companies.