15 March 2007
The state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO), which has long carried out extensive exploration and extraction work for oil in the Black Sea, now looks set to expand its activities in the Mediterranean, a move that may generate tension between Ankara and Greek Cyprus.
Exploration projects are planned for the shallow waters of the Antalya, İskenderun and Mersin bays, with an international tender process to begin this month, stated TPAO Director General Osman Saim Din+ğ this week. Din+ğ told the Anatolia news agency that Turkey would begin exploration with foreign partners in July or August.
He also said Turkey would carry out seismic studies west of Cyprus between the coasts of Turkey and Egypt this spring and summer. TPAO had always been planning to explore the potential for oil in the Mediterranean, but had prioritized the Black Sea because its energy potential had seemed greater. "We achieved serious progress in the Black Sea and exploration works are now on track. Therefore this year we start work in the Mediterranean," he explained.
Tenders for oil exploration and seismic studies in the eastern Mediterranean could well upset Greek Cypriots who last month opened a bidding process to license offshore oil and gas exploration in the same region. The exploration sites are likely to overlap, further raising political tensions between Turkey and Greek Cyprus.
Ankara protested after Greek Cyprus signed agreements to delineate undersea boundaries with Egypt and Lebanon. Turkish authorities said Turkey and Turkish Cypriots also had legitimate rights and interests in the eastern Mediterranean. Ankara stated it would not allow its rights to be eroded and asked Lebanon and Egypt not to go ahead with the agreements.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Bilman dismissed claims that the TPAO's plans for oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean were related to the Greek Cypriot move to open a bidding process to license offshore oil exploration in the region. "I don't think there is a connection between the two issues," he told a press conference yesterday.
Bilman also said a Turkish delegation had recently been sent to Egypt to discuss the Egyptian-Greek Cypriot agreement to delineate undersea borders in the eastern Mediterranean. The delegation had an exchange of views and information with the Egyptian authorities and the two sides agreed to continue talks, he added.
Meanwhile, the US gave indirect support to the Greek Cypriot plans for oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, with State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey saying sovereign governments had a right to contracts with private companies or other governments.
15 March 2007