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Turkey’s Unauthorized Gas Drilling Could Have Serious Consequences

The European Union is eyeing long promised punitive measures against Turkey for its illegal military incursion into northern Syria, as well as its unauthorized natural gas drilling off Cyprus' coast. 

Germany's Deutsche Welle reported on Saturday the EU has moved to cut pre-accession aid to Turkey by 75 percent, citing a letter sent to the European Parliament by the EU foreign affairs commissioner. The Instrument for 'Pre-Accession Assistance' (IPA) is offered in support of reforms in countries in the process of joining the EU, despite previously planned 'fast-tracked' talks for Turkey to join the European bloc stalling significantly after 2016. However, the EU quickly distanced itself the report, which appears to have originated with a leaked draft EU letter: 

An EU spokesman on Sunday denied media reports from the previous day that claimed the bloc had agreed to massive new cuts to pre-accession aid to Turkey.

Germany's Funke Media Group had said it saw a letter from the bloc's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, announcing a 75 percent cut to the funds Ankara receives as a prospective EU member via the "Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA)." — DW

It appears the letter was leaked to or seen by the media prematurely, and now EU officials are scrambling to deny it.

Europe has also of late been concerned over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's growing authoritarianism and control over various branches and institutions of Turkey's government, especially since putting down the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt which resulted in him and his supporters emerging stronger than ever. 

"Turkey will now only receive €168 million ($186 million), of which €150 million will be spent on strengthening democracy and rule of law," the original disputed Deutsche Welle report said of potential measures, threatening an aid package which is supposed to be over twice the size. 

EU foreign affairs commissioner Borrell's apparently leaked letter indicated the potential slash in funds are directly related to Turkey's Syria operations against the Kurds and incursions into Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone. This follows the European Commission announcing sanctions in November to target "individuals or entities responsible for, or involved in, unauthorized drilling activities of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean."

Over the past year, Turkish authorities have been brazen in publicizing their territorial claims and actions backing them in the eastern Mediterranean, even as EU leaders have slammed the now nine months-long exploration and drilling expansion in solidarity with Cypriot condemnations. Starting last summer two exploration and drilling ships — the Yavuz and the Fatih  had been deployed a mere 42 miles off the west coast of Cyprus, accompanied also by military vessels and on occasion aircraft.   Related: Why Trump Can’t Retreat From The Middle East

But as DW reports further, this latest proposed looming and now disputed cut in pre-accession aid will not affect the billions promised to Turkey in the wake of the 2015 to 2016 peak of the refugee crisis:

The cut in aid, however, doesn't affect the €3.5 billion offered to Turkey as part of a larger EU deal to prevent refugees from reaching European shores.

The EU has already warned Turkey of possible repercussions over illegal gas drilling off the coast of Cyprus.

However, the EU has signaled it could be a first step in more punitive measures to come. 

Download our free ''A New War In The Middle East'' report and read about the top risks for oil markets in 2020

Turkey has long claimed it's drilling within its territorial rights, based on its lone claim to the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (since 1974), which supposedly allows Ankara to share revenues from Cypriot gas exploration. 

Ultimately, Turkey has laid claim to waters extending a whopping 200 miles from its coast, brazenly asserting ownership over a swathe of the Mediterranean that even cuts into Greece's exclusive economic zone.

By Zerohedge.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on January 22 2020 said:
    Neither sanctions by the European Union (EU) nor threats could deter Turkey from achieving its three main objectives in the energy scene in the EU and the Eastern Mediterranean.

    The first is to establish itself as the uncontested energy hub for the European Union (EU). The second is to ensure that the Turkish Cypriots get a fair share from natural gas discoveries offshore Cyprus. The third objective is to prevent the construction of EastMed gas pipeline by Israel, Greece and Cyprus to bring Israeli and Cypriot natural gas under the Mediterranean to the EU via the Greek mainland. Turkey opposes it because it will compete with both the Turk Stream and the South Gas Corridor (SGC) pipelines which will bring Russian and Azerbaijani gas supplies under the Black Sea and from the Caspian respectively to the EU via Turkey.

    Turkey will not be intimidated by threats or sanctions from the EU. If sanctions were imposed on it, it will simply respond by opening the flood gates of refugees wanting to go to Europe.

    Instead, the EU should focus on facilitating an accommodation between Turkey and Cyprus not dissimilar to the recent gas agreement reached between Russia and Ukraine through the good offices of the EU.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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