Turkey Muscles In on Neighbors With Oil Drilling In Disputed Waters


(Bloomberg) —

Turkey plans new drilling for oil and natural gas in disputed waters, in a major assertion of its claims over resources that could fuel tensions with neighbors.

Turkish state-run oil company TPAO will start seismic studies after exploration licenses are issued on the basis of the new maritime boundary with Libya, Donmez said.

Drilling will take place in the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea from July, while seismic exploration will be stepped up within maritime borders set by an accord with Libya’s internationally recognized government, the Turkish energy minister said.

“Those who want to keep us away are left out of the game. They probably used this crisis as a pretext to withdraw,” Fatih Donmez told state-run Anadolu Agency on Thursday. He was referring to Exxon Mobil Corp.’s decision to postpone exploratory drilling in part of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone because of the coronavirus pandemic and a slump in oil prices.

The eastern Mediterranean has become an energy hot spot with big finds for Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt in recent years, and Turkey is now determined to secure a share of critical assets.

The Cypriot government has licensed several offshore exploration blocks, some of them located in disputed waters, including an agreement with Total SA and Eni SpA for oil and natural gas exploration rights in an area where Turkey wants to drill. It’s not clear exactly where Turkey plans to operate from July.

The European Union is weighing whether to impose sanctions against Turkey over its exploration off Cyprus.

EU Walks Turkey Tightrope With Limited Sanctions on Drilling

Turkey’s maritime agreement with the government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, meanwhile, heightened territorial tensions with Greece, which regards the accord as a violation of its territorial rights.