Turkey escalating tension in Eastern Med offshore drilling stand-off

Turkey intends to send its own drillship into contested waters off Cyprus to explore for offshore oil and gas, the country’s foreign ministery announced lat last week.

The move could increase the tension between Turkey and Cyprus, as well as take to a new level any conflict with oil companies ExxonMobil and Eni, who are researching lease blocks in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish naval forces recently prevented an Eni-chartered drillship from operating in a lease area off the east coast of Cyprus, an area which Turkey claims does not belong exclusively to Cyprus. Turkey wants the revenue from petroleum exploration in the Cypriot EEZ to be shared with the mainly unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Turkey’s state-owned petroleum firm posseses a drillship – Deepsea Metro II – and two seismic ships. However, Deepsea Metro II last week was designated as being moored near Gebze, in the Sea of Marmara, and “under repair”.

Last week the EU objected to Turkey’s stance on Cypriot offshore exploration. “The European Council strongly condemns Turkey’s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea and underlines its full solidarity with Cyprus and Greece,” it said. Turkey’s foreign ministry replied that “the EU has completely lost its objectivity on the matter of Cyprus. If this attitude continues, it is impossible to accept the EU as a third party on the Cyprus issue”.