Turkey plans to drill gas off Cyprus in August

Turkey has said it plans to resume gas drilling off Cyprus in August, which could spark a row with Brussels.

The European Union has considered imposing sanctions on Turkey in 2020 for investigating disputed territory in the eastern Mediterranean for natural gas.

Turkey had drilled near the territory claimed by Greece before withdrawing its research vessel in 2020.

Energy majors are drilling territory around Cyprus as part of efforts to diversify gas supplies away from Russia.

ExxonMobil, Qatar Petroleum, Chevron, Italy’s Eni and France’s Total have secured licenses to drill in nine of Cyprus’ 13 offshore blocks. Turkey and Turkish Cyprus have overlapping claims to many maritime blocks.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay, during a visit to the occupied northern enclave of Cyprus, said Turkey would resume drilling in August.

“The hydrocarbon resources of the Mediterranean are not the playthings of the Greek Cypriots,” he said, according to the NTV television channel.

“Our drilling vessel Abdulhamid Han plans to begin operations in the Mediterranean next month.”

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar has proposed a plan for joint exploration of potential offshore natural gas deposits.

Tatar’s proposal on gas exploration calls for a “cooperation mechanism” that would involve companies with which the Republic of Cyprus has signed agreements to drill for hydrocarbons off the southern coast of the island.

The Greek Cypriot government strongly opposes the involvement of energy companies in talks with the Turkish Cypriots, saying it would diminish its authority and boost Turkish Cypriots’ moves for recognition as a separate state.

The Eastern Mediterranean is already experiencing considerable tensions.

Greece claims the Turkish military is encroaching on its Aegean islands and Ankara claims Greek armed forces have secretly established bases on the islands in violation of international agreements, including the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.

The treaty between Turkey and the United States, Japan, Italy, Great Britain, France, Yugoslavia, Romania and Greece recognized the independence of Turkey and its borders. Turkey relinquished its claims to Mosul in what is now Iraq and parts of modern Greece in western Thrace and most of the Aegean islands.

Greek control over islands close to Turkey was internationally recognized.

Under the treaty, a bloody exchange of Greek-Turkish population took place, with the Orthodox Greeks heading west and the Muslim Turks abandoning Greece.

Port of Kyrenia with Kyrenia Castle dating from Venetian times Photo credit: Wikimedia

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