Tensions flare with Turkey as Exxon prepares to drill off Cyprus - analysis

As the drillship of U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil prepares to arrive in the port of Greek Cyprus’ Limassol on Nov. 5 to start drilling in Block 10 in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) south of the island later this month, Turkey is expected to increase its verbal threats, said New Europe website.

Exxon arrives amid repeated objections from Turkey in the face of Cypriot plans to exploit potential offshore gas reserves in the Mediterranean and Turkish warships in February twice blocked the course of an exploration vessel leased by Italian energy firm Eni off Cyprus. 

Turkey says a breakaway Turkish-Cypriot enclave in the north of the island, which is only recognised by Ankara, has a right to a share in the reserves, while the Cypriot government says any proceeds from gas drilling will be shared fairly after a peace deal is established.

Turkey, has not claimed Block 10 until now, the website recalled, however, Ankara reportedly argued that a section of Block 10 is located in an area where Turkish Cypriots also have rights.

Natural Hydrocarbons Company CEO Charles Ellinas, while reminding that Turkey does not claim the area where drilling is planned by ExxonMobil, said,  “more recently Turkey announced that all hydrocarbons, no matter where they are found, also belong to Turkish Cypriots and that it intends to safeguard their interests.”

Asked if the US could issue a fresh warning to Turkey as Cyprus and Greece move ahead with hydrocarbon exploration, Ellinas said, “So far its position is that Cyprus is entitled to its EEZ and to exploit it, but for the benefit of all Cypriots, asking others to respect this right.”