Already hunting for oil and gas off Cyprus in defiance of soft European Union sanctions, Turkey vowed to stop the US’ ExxonMobil or foreign energy companies to drill in the waters.
Qatar Energy and the American energy giant were given licenses to explore a block southwest of the island in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) parts of which Turkey doesn’t recognize.
In a report, Upstream Online said the US company has a 60 percent stake and QatarEnergy 40 percent, although Turkish warships in the area previously made the Italian company Eni back off from going to an area where it was licensed.
The US-Qatar tandem also holds exploration rights for the promising nearby Block 10 offshore Cyprus that hosts the giant Glaucus gas discovery that was announced in 2019, which could hold up to 8 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Work was supposed to begin in 2020 but was pushed back by restrictions around the still lingering COVID-19 pandemic, Cyprus eager for companies it has licensed to resume operations.
The Greek-Cypriot government that is a member of the European Union offered 30 percent of potentially lucrative energy revenues to the Turkish-Cypriot side occupying the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion although it makes up less than 20 percent of the population.
That was rejected and now Turkish-Cypriot hardline leader Ersin Tatar has demanded the United Nations recognize the occupied territory that no other country apart from Turkey does.
Turkey has also threatened to prevent ExxonMobil’s from carrying out exploration activities in Block 5 and accused Cyprus of violating its continental shelf by awarding an exploration license in the Mediterranean region, the report also added.
“A part of the license in question violates Turkey’s continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean region,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said, adding that Turkey “will not allow any foreign country, company or vessel to engage in hydrocarbon exploration activities in its maritime jurisdiction and will continue to resolutely defend her rights and those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” using the name of the occupied territory no other country does.
The report noted that Turkey is using gunboats to keep foreign companies out of waters it disputes but it wasn’t said whether the United States Navy, with a strong presence in the Mediterranean would intervene if ExxonMobil ships are threatened.
Texas-based Noble Energy – now owned by Chevron – in 2011 made the first discovery off Cyprus with its Aphrodite field that is estimated to contain around 4.5 trillion cubic feet of gas – although it has yet to be developed.
The discovery of nearby Egypt’s huge Zohr offshore reservoir in 2015 also stoked interest that Cypriot waters hold the same riches and set off a scramble to find out, also said Upstream Online.