Ankara’s plans of exploratory gas drilling off the shelf of Cyprus could lead to a profound crisis in the region. The delineation of the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) between Greece and Egypt was discussed at a trilateral meeting between Greek Prime minister, Egyptian President and Cyprus President on Crete.
Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt have turbulence over their plans with the hydrocarbon-rich part of the Eastern Mediterranean. The natural resources that are believed to be present under seas under Cyprus have peaked over the past year as Turkey seeks to block gas exploration by the Greek Cypriot government with warships and military exercises, prompting criticism from Greece, the European Union, and the United States.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Fatih Dönmez, has announced that his country will go ahead with drilling off the shelf of Cyprus within days. Turkey’s first drilling ship is already on site, which is putting Turkey on the list of 10 countries that now have their own vessels for drilling and exploration, while construction of a second drilling vessel is set to begin shortly, Dönmez said.
According to Cypriot media, Turkey has illegally appropriated most of the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus to the west of Paphos, not allowing the Republic of Cyprus or other states to operate since 2008.
Egypt, Greece and Cyprus challenge Turkey over Cypriot Gas
The leaders of Egypt, Greece and Cyprus, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Prime minister Alexis Tsipras and President Nicos Anastasiades met for the 6th time since 2014 to discuss their ambition of becoming major natural gas suppliers to international markets.
By reiterating their intention to exploit Cypriot gas reserves, the leaders are directly challenging Ankara who has repeatedly threatened to block Nicosia’s exploration off its coast. In last February, Egypt “warned” Turkey against any infringing upon its economic rights in the eastern Mediterranean after the coming into of force of the 2013’s border agreement between Cairo and Nicosia, allowing Egypt to perform gas exploration.
Egypt has had strained relationships with Turkey since President al-Sisi, as defense minister, led the military’s removal of Mohamed Morsi, a president backed by Ankara.