Ignoring Turkey’s warnings to stop, Cyprus’ government is planning repeated rounds of drilling for oil and gas in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where foreign companies are licensed to work.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sent two research vessels and a warship into the area and said his country will also proceed, setting up fears of a conflict, with the European Union and the United States backing Cyprus.
The island has been divided since Turkey unlawfully invaded in 1974 and occupied the northern third. With energy a game-changer, the last round of unity talks collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.
That happened although Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades offered to share potentially lucrative energy revenues with the Turkish-Cypriot side but Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they also wanted their side to take part in the licensing rights.
Cyprus Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said eight drillings, six exploratory and two confirmatory will be conducted in the EEZ over the next two years, without specifying where it would happen, said Kathimerini.
After the US energy giant ExxonMobil announced a big gas field find, he said the government is in the final stages of licensing for Block 7, where France’s Total has shown interest in working.
That’s a bloc where Turkey is also making claims as it hasn’t yet been licensed to any foreign company.
Turkey’s Fatih drillship currently remains anchored within Cyprus’ EEZ while the Barbaros research vessel is in Block 8, which has been awarded to Italian company Eni, which was scared off previously by a Turkish warship.