French energy giant Total wants to expand its search for oil and gas off the coast of Cyprus island, despite Turkey's warnings over exploration, a senior company official said yesterday.
After joining forces with Italy's ENI in two areas off the Cypriot coast, Total's regional director Stephane Michel said the firm wanted to expand its partnership.
"We applied as well to enter block eight owned by ENI and wanted to come to support that demand," he told reporters following talks with Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. The country's energy minister, George Lakkotrypis, said there had been "constructive discussions about the next steps" for Total to operate in the economic exclusive zone unilaterally declared by Greek Cyprus.
He welcomed Total's commitment as "an extremely important development" which will strengthen the energy consortium. In February, a drill ship contracted by ENI to explore off the Mediterranean island abandoned its mission after Turkish warships blocked its path.
Monday's talks in Nicosia follow a visit to the Greek Cypriot capital last month by ENI chief executive Claudio Descalzi, during which he reaffirmed the company's "strong engagement and commitment toward the country." After Turkey's intervention against the Italian drilling vessel on Feb. 9, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned foreign energy companies not to "overstep the mark" in the Mediterranean.
The standoff over exploiting energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean has further complicated stalled efforts to reunify Cyprus island following the collapse of UN-brokered peace talks last year.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 into a predominantly Greek south, which is an EU member, and a Turkish north whose sovereignty is only recognized by Ankara. Greek Cypriot government is reportedly in discussion with Cairo to build a direct submarine natural gas pipeline from Cyprus to a plant in Egypt.
U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil - with Qatar Petroleum - is scheduled to conduct drilling off Cyprus in the second half of 2018.