Turkey will not allow any unilateral hydrocarbon drilling or exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez said yesterday.
"We will not allow a single-sided system where the rights of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) are ignored and where the parties on the island do not have a fair and equitable share. Turkey's attitude and stance on this issue is clear. We are determined to defend our rights and interests arising from international law until the end," Dönmez said during his speech at the 9th Exploration and Production Activity Consultation meeting in Ankara.
Turkey on many occasions has contested the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling activity for gas in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying Turkish Cypriots also have rights to the resources around the area.
According to the Greek Ekathimerini newspaper, Greek Cypriot Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism Yiorgos Lakkotrypis and Egypt's Oil Minister Tarek El-Molla signed an agreement on Wednesday for the construction of a sub-sea pipeline to export natural gas from Cyprus to Egypt. The pipeline will transfer natural gas from the island's Aphrodite natural gas field to a liquefaction plant based in the town of Edku in Egypt's Beheira governorate.
Cyprus was divided into a Turkish Cypriot state in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south after the 1974 military coup was followed by violence against the island's Turkish people, and Turkey's intervention as a guarantor power. Negotiations over Cyprus resumed after a 2004 UN-backed Annan Plan to reunify the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities.
The reunification talks - brokered by UN Special Cyprus Envoy Espen Barth Eide - were launched in May 2015 to discuss a permanent settlement for the divided Mediterranean island.
The status of the island remains unresolved in spite of a series of discussions that resumed in May 2015.
There has been an on-and-off peace process over recent years, the latest failed initiative having taken place in Crans-Montana, Switzerland in July 2017 under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the U.K., collapsing earlier this year.
Turkey, in its capacity as a guarantor on the island, has also strengthened its presence in the Mediterranean Sea with its seismic and drilling vessels - the Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa, Oruç Reis and Fatih.
The Fatih vessel will conduct its first drilling in the Mediterranean in the next few months, the minister revealed.
This drilling is based on success in Turkey's exploration and production industry, which has spent over $10 billion in the past 16 years.
"The exploration and production industry is creating $5 billion in value with its subsidiary industries today, but our potential is far above that," he said.
"We prevented imports of $20 billion in return for these investments; however, we are not at the point we want to be," he added. Dönmez also vowed that domestic production would increase to support a strong economy and encourage more energy independence by utilizing Turkey's local resources.
Vowing that they will conduct more exploration and drilling, Dönmez said, "From this point of view, we have taken important steps recently toward increasing the exploration and production of hydrocarbons." We will unabatedly continue to work to change the color and destiny of this game, he added.
Pointing out that they resumed oil exploration activities in northern and southern border regions this year for the first time in 35 years, Dönmez said that they have collected gravity data from the air for the first time in Turkey and sampled rocks to update the region's geological map.
"We have made significant progress in unconventional works we initiated in Thrace and southeastern Anatolia. To determine and commercialize our non-conventional potential, we continue to make technology-intensive investments in this area through both private and public sectors," the minister concluded.