With Turkish warships trying to keep foreign energy companies from looking for oil and gas off Cyprus, a Turkish ship on Oct. 31 was set to start its own drilling in the Mediterranean, testing Greece as well as the government of Cyprus, where Turkey unlawfully occupies the northern third of the island.
Turkey doesn’t recognize parts of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and was upset that Turkish-Cypriots have been left out of the process of licensing foreign companies, including from the United States, France and Italy.
Speaking at a ceremony for the launch of the drilling ship Fatih, Donmez said it would begin drilling at the Alanya-1 borehole, located 100 kilometers (60 miles) off the southern province of Antalya and 60 kilometers (37.28 miles) off Antalya’s Alanya district, the British newspaper The Express said.
“Turkey has set its main goal as independence in energy,” Donmez said. “We don’t have an eye on others’ resources, our only issue is to present to our people the riches within our territory.”
Earlier in October, ExxonMobil said it would search for natural gas off the cost of Cyprus by the end of the year as Turkey renewed warnings against resource exploration in seas where it says it infringes on its rights and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots.
Senior Vice President Neil Chapman said that exploratory drilling will begin “sometime in the fourth quarter.” He said ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum are focused on an area southwest of the Mediterranean island where they’re licensed to explore.
Chapman said the company hasn’t “looked in any detail” at an adjacent area, or block, for which the Cypriot government on Thursday invited bids for a drilling license.
The tender elicited another strongly-worded statement by Turkey’s foreign ministry, saying that Ankara “has never allowed and will never allow” any country or company to conduct “unauthorized research activities” inside waters it considers under its own jurisdiction.
Turkey claims that parts of some blocks Cyprus has designated for drilling fall inside its own continental shelf. Turkey also argues that any hydrocarbon exploration ignores the rights of Turkish Cypriots to the divided island nation’s natural resources.