Following the launch of its first drillship Fatih and first well-drilling operations in the Mediterranean in late October, Turkey will boost its presence in the region with the drilling of a second well off the coast of Mersin. Turkey has been conducting seismic surveys in the region for nearly eight years. Last year, the country bought its first drilling vessel Fatih, named after Fatih Sultan Mehmet, the Ottoman conqueror of Istanbul. It began drilling the well on Oct. 30 off the coast of Alanya, a district in the Mediterranean resort province of Antalya.
The shallow well development operations at the Kuzey Erdemli-1, located 19 nautical miles away from Mersin's shores, are expected to last for 60 days. The shallow wells will be drilled at a depth of 101 meters and 90 meters. As part of its licenses in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey will initially drill two shallow wells, designed and planned by Turkish engineers. "Turkey will continue defending peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean in accordance with its historical mission," Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez said yesterday in an address at a ceremony.
He also stressed that Turkey's energy projects do not only serve the country but makes significant contributions to the regional economy and politics.
"Our main concern is to fully exercise our legal rights and economically exploit our own resources. Turkey is acting in line with its own energy strategy," Dönmez added.
The drilling platform will be transferred to Adana after two months of operations in Mersin and will start drilling for Kuzupınarı-1 well in the Mediterranean town. The drilling offshore of Adana will last four months at the well that will reach a depth of 4,100 meters.
Minister Dönmez said that Turkey has a crucial role in regional and international energy markets. The size of the Turkish economy, the rising energy demand, the country's geostrategic importance and its political stability renders it an indispensable energy partner.
He highlighted the efforts to decrease Turkey's dependence on imported energy and the necessity for the country to change the dynamics, stressing that these efforts in the Mediterranean with new wells point to the intensified efforts to transform Turkey's energy outlook and policy.
As Turkey prepares for the purchase of a second drillship in December, it continues to reinforce its claim in the hydrocarbon resources of the Mediterranean with full commitment to protecting its own rights and the sovereign rights of the Turkish Cypriots.
In a repetitive fashion, Turkey warned against any unilateral exploration activities by the international energy companies that are commissioned by the Greek Cypriot Administration, disregarding the rights of Turkey and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Italian, French and American energy giants have so far engaged in hydrocarbon exploration and well-drilling operations in the region, specifically in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) unilaterally declared by the Greek Cypriot Administration and consisting of 13 Blocks. Turkey does not recognize the Greek Cypriot Administration's EEZ as it violates the sovereign rights of both Turkish people and Turkish Cypriots living on the northern part of the divided island. Some of the blocks in the unilaterally declared EEZ falls within the Turkish continental shelf and Turkish Cypriot's territorial waters.
According to the international maritime law of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, national territories have a continental shelf up to 200 miles while the islands have territorial waters extending up to 12 miles. For instance, the 6th Block falls within the limits of Turkey's 200-mile continental shelf. Turkey does not recognize the agreement.
After the gas discoveries sped up in the region over the last decade, the regional countries have concluded bilateral maritime border demarcation agreements with Greek Cypriot Administration. For example, in 2010, Israel had hammered out an accord demarcating maritime borders with Cyprus. The deal had naval security implications and set an official separation of hydrocarbon reserves claimed by Israel and Greek Cypriots who had already done the same with Egypt and Lebanon in 2003 and 2007, respectively.
Turkey does not recognize Greek Cypriot's demarcation agreements with Egypt, Lebanon, and Israel and the country argues that the Greek Cypriots cannot represent the interests of Northern Cyprus.
In February, Turkey declared its rejection of a 2003 maritime border demarcation agreement between Egypt and Cyprus that allows exploration for gas in the area. The country considers the maritime border demarcation agreement null and void as it violates Turkey's continental shelf. Turkey's claims are based on its argument that the capacity of islands to generate maritime zones should be limited in competition with the continental coastal states.
As a result, Turkey's claims are partly overlapping with Cyprus' EEZ blocks 1, 4, 6, and 7. Turkey also supports Northern Cyprus' claims in blocks 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 12, and 13, including seabed within a few kilometers of the Aphrodite gas field, located in Block 12 of unilaterally declared EEZ and believed to hold 3.6 to 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when decades of violence against the island's Turks was followed by a Greek Cypriot coup and Ankara's intervention as a guarantor power.
Negotiations over Cyprus resumed after a 2004 U.N.-backed Annan Plan to reunify the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities.
The reunification talks 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.
The politically unresolved situation in the ethnically-split island of Cyprus escalates tension as the discoveries of natural gas resources announced by international energy firms that are one-sidedly granted exploration and rigging license without consideration of the sovereign rights of the Turkish inhabitants of the island. Therefore, the legal status of the Turkish Cypriot administration and the offshore territorial waters must be resolved with the support of the international community.
Gas discoveries in the Mediterranean
Since 2009, a series of natural gas discoveries in the Levant Basin have shaken the dynamics in the region. Israel's discovery of the Tamar Field and the subsequent discovery of the larger Leviathan Field ignited hopes for other potential discoveries in the region.
The Greek Cypriot's 2010 maritime deal with Israel paved the way for Cyprus to press on with a drilling program at the Aphrodite gas field in block 12 of its exploratory drilling zone, which it had licensed to Noble Energy in 2008. Texas-based Noble Energy in 2011 made the first discovery off the island of Cyprus in the Aphrodite block. This field is located at the 12th exploratory drilling block in the maritime Exclusive Economic Zone and is estimated to hold about 200 billion cubic meters of gas.
The massive Zohr Field was found in Egyptian waters by Italian firm Eni in 2015. Eni reported the discovery of an estimated 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off the coast of Egypt.
Meanwhile, territorial disagreements have existed in the Eastern Mediterranean for decades, but the gas discoveries at the Tamar and, subsequently, Leviathan fields, has intensified the disputes. Israel and Lebanon, in particular, have exchanged sharp words over maritime sovereignty issues.
In August 2010, Lebanon submitted a proposal for the maritime border with Israel, which excluded the Tamar and promising Leviathan developments, despite having previously argued that around 30 percent of the field lay in its territory.
That defused the potential for an immediate flare-up between the two countries but tension remains to this day.