Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Turkey to begin drilling off northern Cyprus
Turkey's TPAO has said that it will begin drilling off the coast of Turkish Cyprus “within days”, raising the stakes in the eastern Mediterranean energy game.
The chairman and president of the Turkish state energy company Mehmet Uysaltold Reuters that TPAO had started moving equipment there and would start shortly. Echoing the Turkish government's line, he also said that he would “take all measures” to protect the drilling if it took place in an area disputed by the Republic of Cyprus.
The company has not formally announced the location of its first drilling operations. The areas under contract between TPAO and the Turkish Cypriots cover a major area around the island, including areas to the south of the island which are within commonly accepted Greek Cypriot borders. For its first round of exploratory work, TPAO is unlikely to deploy anywhere too risky or controversial, and is likely to work off the northern coast.
However the company is undoubtedly serious when it says that “all measures” will be taken to defend its operations. The Turkish government has repeatedly expressed its willingness to deploy naval assets in its dispute with the Republic of Cyprus. When seismic vessels began exploring the area last year, in response to Cyprus's decision to allow Noble Energy to prospect for gas and oil, Turkish warships were reportedly shadowing the research ships.
The tensions between Israel and Cyprus on the one hand and Turkish Cyprus and Turkey on the other, have increased lately. Recently it was announced that Israel may be planning a military base in Cyprus; a Turkish minister also provoked controversy by suggesting that Turkey should annex northern Cyprus.
If TPAO strikes it lucky off the Cypriot coast these tensions are likely to increase further. Although it is likely that the company will restrict its activities to waters off Cyprus's north coast, there is no guarantee that the situation will not change in future.
Sources: Rigzone, Reuters, TPAO