Turkey is putting ahead plans for new oil and gas exploration and production research within its maritime jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, in line with the recently signed memorandum of understanding between Turkey and Libya's U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), Turkey's Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez said Wednesday.
Before meeting with miners from across the country on International Miners Day, Dönmez told journalists that the agreement with Libya firstly needs ratification from the general assemblies of both Turkey and Libya, after which authorization studies will be undertaken.
On Nov. 27, the Turkish Communications Directorate announced that Turkey and Libya had signed two memoranda of understanding, one of which, the Restriction of Marine Jurisdictions agreement, determined a portion of Turkey's maritime jurisdiction in the region.
"The companies that we will be granting licenses to launch oil and gas exploration and production studies will work within the maritime jurisdiction laid out within the scope of this agreement," Dönmez said, noting that Turkey had long been conducting hydrocarbon exploration studies using its drilling and seismic vessels in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey, as a guarantor nation for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), is currently carrying out hydrocarbon exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean with two drilling vessels, the Fatih and the Yavuz, along with its seismic vessels Oruç Reis and Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa, in the same region.
Dönmez went over some of the exploratory work that had so far been completed in the region. He recalled that four drillings had already been undertaken with the help of the two vessels and noted a fifth was currently in progress. The studies so far have mainly focused on the island's eastern, western and northern waters. However, he said the current drilling was focusing on regions to the south of the island.
He acknowledged that many parties intended to keep Turkey and Libya out of the game in the Eastern Mediterranean, but added that the agreement with Libya, which Dönmez said is in line with international maritime law, has ensured that Turkey is included in exploration in this region.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.
In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus's annexation by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.
The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all failing. The latest one, held with the participation of the guarantor countries, Turkey, Greece, and the U.K., came to an end without any progress in 2017 in Switzerland.
In a statement Sunday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said, "Through this agreement with Libya, the two countries have clearly manifested their intention not to allow for any fait accompli."
According to the foreign ministry, the agreement complies with international law, including the relevant articles pertaining to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.