Countering Cyprus’ licensing of licenseing a team of the US’ ExxonMobil and Qatar Energy to look for oil and gas in part of the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) Turkey said one of its energy ships would keep operating there.
The Antalya station issued a navigational telex (NAVTEX) warning off other ships in announcing the Oruc Reis will continue its seismic exploration mission in the sea area between southern Turkey and the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus through Jan. 31.
Analysts not named told Kathimerini that the NAVTEX was another signal from Turkey it won’t stop hunting for oil and gas in the same waters after warning it would not allow the foreign companies ships there.
The Turkish ship has been there for some 2 ½ months in defiance of soft European Union sanctions after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government claimed parts of the Continenal Shelf in the region.
Earlier in December, ExxonMobil and Qatar Energy signed a contract for oil and gas exploration and production-sharing off the island divided since unlawful 1974 invasions by Turkey, which seized the northern third.
Cypriot Energy Minister Natasa Pilides, Varnavas Theodosiou, CEO of ExxonMobil Cyprus, and Ali al-Mana, Director of Qatar Energy’s International Upstream and Exploration, signed the contract in Nicosia.
It is the second gas exploration contract that the consortium has signed for Block 5 in the island’s EEZ, reported Agence France-Presse then, noting that in February 2019, the consortium discovered a huge natural gas reserve off Cyprus in Block 10, the island’s largest find to date, holding an estimated five to eight trillion cubic feet.
The consortium plans to drill an appraisal well on Block 10 in late December, with results expected by the end of February, 2022, the report noted, with the exploration put on hold for a time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Despite the increasingly difficult working environment for the global oil and gas industry, today we are taking a decisive step towards enhancing our mutually beneficial partnership,” Pilides said, AFP reported.
Asked about Turkey’s negative reaction to the licensing of Block 5, Pilides said: “We proceed based on international law and the Law of the Sea; This has always been our principle.”
“Turkey will never allow any foreign country, company or ship to engage in hydrocarbon exploration activities in its maritime jurisdictions,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said then.
In February, 2018, Turkish warships kept an energy vessel from Italy’s ENI from reaching an area where it was licensed with no response from Italy or the Italian Navy.