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Exxon’s Likely Cyprus Gas Find Could Reignite Tension In East Mediterranean

ExxonMobil is expected to soon announce that its drilling campaign offshore the southern coast of the divided island of Cyprus has resulted in a major gas discovery, potentially reigniting tension between Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, The Guardian reports.

Turkey, which recognizes the northern Turkish Cypriot government and doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the internationally recognized government of Cyprus, claims that part of the Cyprus offshore area is under the jurisdiction of Turkish Cypriots or Turkey.

ExxonMobil planned to begin drilling for oil and gas offshore Cyprus in the fourth quarter last year, while Turkey warned against exploration offshore Cyprus in what it says is ignoring the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people.

Exxon has found a commercially viable oil reservoir in Block 10 offshore Cyprus, Kathimerini Cyprus reported earlier this month, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.  

Exxon is expected to announce the find this week, according to The Guardian, and this could heat up the race to tap eastern Mediterranean gas resources, but also ratchet up the tension in the area where Cyprus and Turkey have overlapping claims over maritime territories and their natural resources.

“All the seismic data suggests that enough has been found to excite ExxonMobil to continue exploration. Potentially there could be great reserves,” Charles Ellinas, an industry expert and former head of Cyprus’s national hydrocarbons company, told The Guardian’s Helena Smith.

According to analysts who spoke to The Guardian, a potential major gas find offshore south Cyprus could either act as an incentive for Turkey to negotiate a compromise over the divided island or spark a negative reaction from Ankara, because Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is unpredictable.

Turkey will not allow other countries to drill for gas in Turkish or northern Cyprus waters in the eastern Mediterranean, Erdogan warned last November.  

Turkish exploration ships will soon start drilling for oil and gas offshore the northern part of Cyprus, the energy minister of the Turkish Cypriots told Turkish Anadolu Agency two weeks ago, a move that could reignite tension between Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece regarding the exploration rights off the eastern Mediterranean island. 

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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