Israel and Cyprus go ahead with oil exploration despite Turkey’s protests

The Greek and the Cypriot defense ministers have urged Turkey to respect international laws over the row about a possible Greek-Cypriot oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Cypriot Dimitris Eliadis met his Greek counterpart Panos Beglitis in Greece yesterday, where both called on Turkey to respect international laws.

“The Cyprus Republic as a sovereign state has a right to proceed to exploratory drilling, according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” said Beglitis in statements after talks with Eliadis, calling on Ankara to “abstain from unilateral actions that create a climate of instability, tension and a potential crisis in the region.”

The U.S. company Noble Energy Inc. has a contractual obligation with the government of the Greek part of Cyprus to start exploration drilling before October. The drilling is set to last between two and four months and should determine the amount of gas and oil deposits between the coasts of Cyprus and Israel. Noble expects huge natural gas reserves in the area.

Turkey demands that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) should benefit from any exploitation of the gas fields. So far the government of the southern (Greek) Cyprus has refused to to give any guarantees which has prompted Turkey to announce that it would explore the continental shelf separately with the TRNC.

Cyprus has threatened that it will block any further attempts of a Turkish ascension to the EU if the demand is not dropped. What enraged the Turkish government even more, is that Israel and Cyprus are planning to cooperate in the exploitation of the resources.

As with several other issues lately, the Turkish government under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tries to bully its smaller neighbors into submission and at the same time presents itself as the regional superpower to the Arab countries along the shore of the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Turkish threats are unlikely to bear any fruits however, because Israel has a strong interest to develop new sources for natural gas since it imported 40% of its demand from Egypt until last February, when the new Egyptian rulers and several terrorist attacks on pipelines disrupted the flow of gas. Israel is also considering the construction of an undersea pipeline to Greece from where the gas could be sold to other European countries.

As a reaction to the increasingly aggressive Turkish position, the  Greek Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos warned Turkey a few days ago that “any attack against Cyprus will be regarded as an attack against Greece.”

(Sources: Noble Energy, Xinhua, Green Prophet; 17 Sept 2011)


About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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