|President Anastasiades of Cyprus (middle) with the leaders of|
the other six southern EU nations
Tensions between Nicosia and Ankara could escalate next week as there are fears that Turkish plans to perform deep-sea drilling and seismic surveys for oil and natural gas resources in the Eastern Mediterranean could be carried out within Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), where the island’s government announced on Tuesday it will conduct its own research.
Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak has said that his country will launch exploration – as early as next week – in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, and that it will be conducting more active two- and three-dimensional seismic surveys in both locations.
Greek concerns stem from the fact that Turkey believes a part of Cyprus’s EEZ – Plot 6 – belongs to its continental shelf, and that it could unilaterally begin exploration there.
Moreover, there could more tension in the first two weeks of July as French energy giant Total plans to drill in Plot 11 of Cyprus’s EEZ.
The volatility is also fueled by the fact that Turkey believes Cyprus is unilaterally exploiting its gas reserves without the consent of the Turkish Cypriots, who live in the Turkish-occupied north of the island.
Disagreement over the exploitation of the island’s energy reserves has also pervaded the UN-backed Cyprus peace talks between President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who insists that drilling for gas in the island’s EEZ should be postponed until there is a settlement to the decades-long dispute. Anastasiades has responded saying that Cyprus’s sovereign rights are not up for negotiation.