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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 on Wednesday, a move that could reignite tension between Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece regarding the exploration rights off the eastern Mediterranean island.
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.
“We will protect the rights and interests of the Turkish Cypriots and take the necessary steps on the issue of natural gas, just as we do on other issues,” Ozdil Nami, the energy minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), told Anadolu Agency.
The president of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, has proposed that the Turkish Cypriots keep their share of the oil and gas income in a special fund until a solution to the divided island of Cyprus is reached. The Turkish Cypriot energy minister Nami, however, called this proposal “irrational and illogical,” according to Anadolu Agency.
“Turkey is the easiest, most economical and fastest route in transporting natural gas extracted in the eastern Mediterranean to Europe,” Nami told the Turkish news agency.
Turkey will not allow other countries to drill for gas in Turkish or northern Cyprus waters in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned in November, while both Turkey and Cyprus were getting ready to drill in the area where the countries have overlapping claims of maritime territories.
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, Greek newspaper Kathimerini Cyprus reported last week, citing sources with knowledge of the matter. Official results from Exxon are not expected until the end of this week, Kathimerini Cyprus said last week.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.