Turkey and Greece in dispute over gas drillings
Turkey and Turkish Cyprus (which is not recognised internationally) have signed an agreement with regards to the continental shelf to define their maritime borders with the goal of joint gas and oil exploration. However, some of the areas included in the agreement fall within a region claimed by the (Greek) Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member.
Cypriot President Dimitri Christofias said last Saturday that drilling for oil and gas would continue, despite Turkish opposition. For the Cypriot leader, his nation’s right to search for potential mineral deposits inside its exclusive economic zone is non-negotiable and that any foreign meddling is unacceptable.
Greece and Israel improve relations
The situation has led to a major improvement in relations between Cyprus and Israel. President Christofias has already visited Israel, and his Israeli counterpart is set to visit the island nation shortly.
The two countries have also signed an agreement on delimiting their respective Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and on co-operating in oil and gas exploration in Cyprus’ EEZ, which has been undertaken by Noble Energy in cooperation with the US State Department and the US Embassy in Nicosia.
Cyprus also intends to act as a natural mediator between Lebanon and Israel in their dispute over Leviathan.
Gas drillings near Cyprus an International issue
...gas discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean are raising tensions that go beyond the Turkish-Cypriot dispute.
In Cyprus, newspapers are reporting increased Turkish aerial activity around the island, with nighttime research and rescue training operations. At the same time, Israel is monitoring Turkish moves with unmanned drones circling the drilling area.
Both Greece and Russia have backed the Cypriot position on the natural gas issue. Moscow also wants some licences to develop some of the fields and is in favour of a cooperation agreement with Cyprus.
The Russian aircraft carrier ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ is expected in the eastern Mediterranean region next month, carrying a large number of Russian fighters. A submarine is also on its way for “patrol purposes” as part of exercises with other countries in the area.
The arrival of the Russians coincides with the expected announcement by Noble of its initial drilling results.