Turkey to start drilling in expanded Mediterranean jurisdiction - minister

Turkey will start awarding licences to drill in its newly expanded maritime borders once an agreement made with the Tripoli government in Libya is approved by the two countries’ parliaments, Turkey’s energy minister said on Wednesday. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the head of Libya’s National Accord (GNA) government Fayez al-Sarraj signed a memorandum of understanding last week which, if implemented, will make the two countries maritime neighbours. 

“Our institutions, which we will grant licences as we did in other regions in new areas under our jurisdiction according to this agreement, will start their activities for petrol and gas surveying and production,” Hürriyet quoted Minister Fatih Dönmez as saying. “First of all, both countries parliaments should approve the agreement,” he said. 

The minister said the agreement helped Ankara prevent efforts in the east Mediterranean to exclude Turkey from its share of the region’s energy resources. 

In addition to the memorandum of understanding on the “delimitation of maritime jurisdictions”, Turkey has also submitted a series of claims in the region to the United Nations, notably its claim to maritime zones and a continental shelf west of the 28th meridian (south of Rhodes), ignoring the Greek Dodecanese chain of islands.

Ankara’s move exacerbated tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey since the beginning of the year has stepped up its gas drilling activities near Cyprus, claiming territorial waters that overlaps with the exclusive economic zone (EEC) declared by Nicosia. 

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are expected to meet on Wednesday on the sidelines of the NATO summit in London. 

“Turkey’s attempt to abolish maritime zones around islands – such as Crete, Rhodes, Karpathos, Kastellorizo – with gimmicks such as invalid bilateral memoranda does not lead in legal results. That is, it cannot undermine the sovereign rights of our islands, which are established in international law and, in particular, in the Law of the Sea,” Mitsotakis said on Wednesday.