Turkey may begin oil exploration in three to four months under Libya deal

Turkey’s Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez has said that Turkey may begin oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean within three or four months as part of a deal signed with Libya, which has been widely condemned in the region, Reuters reported. 

Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) – which is backed by Turkey in the country’s civil war – signed a maritime deal with Ankara last year. 

Turkey says it creates an exclusive economic zone from its southern coast to Libya’s northeast coast, and protects its rights to natural resources.

“Within the framework of the agreement we reached with Libya we will be able to start our oil exploration operations there within three to four months,” Dönmez said while speaking at a ceremony to mark the launch of Turkey’s Fatih oil-and-gas drilling ship, which is setting off to the Black Sea.

Dönmez said Turkish Petroleum (TPAO), which had applied for an exploration permit in the eastern Mediterranean, would carry out the operations in areas under its license.

Turkey’s new Kanuni drill ship would also go to the Mediterranean later this year, Dönmez added.

The move could further stoke tensions in the region, where Turkey is at odds with Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel over natural resource exploration rights. Turkey could also face possible European Union sanctions over its operations, Reuters said. 

Greece, Cyprus and others have said that Turkey’s maritime deal is illegal, an accusation that Ankara has rejected. 

The European Union also opposes the maritime deal that was signed as part of an agreement for Turkey to provide military support to the GNA, which has battled forces led by the rebel General Khalifa Haftar for more than a year.

Dönmez said the Fatih drill ship would commence drilling operations in the Black Sea on July 15, the anniversary of a 2016 failed coup attempt.