The Turkish drillship Fatih started on Wednesday its first drilling campaign in the Eastern Mediterranean, in a move which is likely to increase tensions between Turkey (which is ruling the northern part of Cyprus), and Greece, and Cyprus, over offshore oil and gas rights.
Turkish Minister of Energy Fatih Donmez said on Tuesday that the first exploration well will be drilled at a location about 35 nm off the town of Alanya, Antalya province. “We don’t have an eye on the resources of others, our only issue is to present to our people the riches within our territory,” Donmez said. The well will be some distance from the disputed region, which lies further south and around Cyprus.
“If harassment takes place, our naval forces will do what is necessary,” Donmez added.
In February, five Turkish warships blocked a rig belonging to the Italian energy firm ENI from processing its operations for searching for gas in the eastern Mediterranean regional waters of Cyprus island.
Cyprus has been divided into two countries since 1974, forming the Turkish Cyprus on the northern third of the island, and the Greek Cyprus in the southern two thirds. While the Greek Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognised and an EU member, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognised only by Ankara.
Turkey affirmed that the northern part of the divided island, which is closely linked to Ankara, shares in the proceeds of gas reserves found under Cypriot waters, and Turkey has plans to invest in the zone soon.
Egypt has signed an agreement with Cyprus for digging for oil in the zone. Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs previously denounced the Turkish moves in the Eastern Mediterranean saying that the maritime demarcation agreement between Egypt and Cyprus is legal and any party has no right to doubt its legality.
Egypt said further that the agreement is in accordance with the international law, and was filed as an international agreement to the UN, warning of any attempt to harm or affect Egypt’s sovereign rights in the eastern region of the Mediterranean, saying it will be confronted.