Exxon’s likely gas find off Cyprus could reignite tension in E. Mediterranean - analysis

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

The exploration and drilling of gas reserves around Cyprus is a contentious topic, particularly between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey, which is the only country to recognise the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. 

Turkey, which doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the internationally recognised government of Greek Cyprus, claims that part of the Cyprus offshore area remains under the jurisdiction of Turkish Cypriots or Turkey.

Exxon has found a commercially viable oil reservoir in Block 10 offshore Cyprus amid warnings from Ankara against exploration due to what it says is ignoring the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people, the Guardian reported.

Turkey has disputed the Greek Cypriots’ rights to areas north of block 10, which it says fall on its continental shelf.

Expected to announce the find this week, Exxon’s findings ‘’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,’’ it said.

The article highlighted that a potential major gas find offshore south Cyprus could either serve as an incentive for Ankara to negotiate a compromise over the divided island or spark a negative reaction from the country due to the unpredictability of the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Erdoğan warned last November that Ankara would not allow other countries to drill for gas in Turkish or northern Cypriot waters in the resource-rich eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish exploration ships are preparing to drill for oil and gas offshore northern Cyprus, the Guardian said, in a move that could stoke tensions between Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece regarding the exploration rights.