Greek Cyprus official said Monday they had started drilling for natural gas, prompting PM Erdoğan to say Turkey will start its own gas drilling work next week
Greek Cyprus has begun exploratory offshore drilling for gas, ignoring Turkey’s warnings of retaliatory exploration and an increased military presence in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed the Greek Cypriot actions, vowing an imminent response in waters off northern Cyprus and noting that Turkish frigates and the Air Force would patrol the area.
U.S. energy company Noble started drilling for natural gas from its Aphrodite platform on Sunday night, the director of the Cypriot energy services, Solon Kassinis, told the semi-official Cyprus News Agency on Monday.
Good progress was being made, he said, adding that the Texan-based energy firm hoped to find “sizeable quantities” of gas in block 12.
“Very soon, possibly next week, we will start work in our own exclusive economic zone,” Erdoğan said in Ankara in reference to Turkey and northern Cyprus, adding that the Greek Cypriot exclusive economic zone was “disputed.”
Earlier, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said the Turkish Petroleum Corporation, or TPAO, was ready to start surveys in waters off northern Cyprus as soon as next week.
The surveys will be “obviously” carried out with the escort of the Turkish Navy and “there will be no stepping back from that,” he said.
The text of a continental shelf delineation accord between Turkey and northern Cyprus that will pave the way for the exploration work is ready for signing at any time, Yıldız said.
TPAO will be working in cooperation with a Norwegian company that the minister declined to name.
The areas of TPAO activity would be determined by maritime boundaries to be outlined in the continental shelf accord with northern Cyprus, Yıldız said following initial remarks that the exploration would be “related to the whole of Cyprus.”
EU calls for restraint
In Brussels, meanwhile, the European Commission told Turkey and Greek Cyprus to show restraint and work toward resolving the island’s longstanding division.
“The European Union calls on all parties to make all efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement as soon as possible,” Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, told a regular briefing.
“All parties should exercise restraint and do their utmost to facilitate the successful completion of this process,” she said.
There are no plans to change the schedule of which EU member takes the helm of the 27-member bloc, she said.
“We are not considering this. Cyprus is scheduled to take over the presidency in July next year,” she said, adding that priority should be given to solving the Cyprus conflict.