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Cyprus Begins Controversial Oil & Gas Drilling Despite Turkish Warnings

By MarEx 2011-09-19 16:07:37

U.S. Texas-based energy firm, Noble Energy, has begun an exploratory drilling project off the coast of Cyprus, amidst strong advisories from Turkey not to do so, AP reports.

The area in dispute has long been a topic of controversy, as this portion of the Mediterranean is rich in mineral deposits and in unstable political territories.  The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974, with one part of Cyprus internationally recognized as part of Greece, and a breakaway segment to Turkey, although the Turkish segment is recognized only by Turkey and not worldwide.  This political unrest creates a disconnected confusion as to who actually has rights to the energy deposits underneath the sea.  

Despite the undeclared rights to the riches, Cypriot energy chief, Solon Kassinis, reported to AP this Monday that workers for Noble Energy have begun drilling aboard their rig in the region and, in fact, have already drilled about 260-feet into the seafloor 115 miles off the southern coast of Cyprus.  Kassinis told Reuters that this exploratory process will be completed in 73 days and that it is merely preparatory work.

When the Turks caught wind of the escalation, they did not take kindly to the news, commenting that frigates, gunboats, and air force will be continually monitoring the actions, and although they believe it is not right for them to drill  since it is not exclusively theirs, that they will undergo their own oil and gas search as a result.  Turkish energy minister, Yaner Yildiz, told AP that unless the Cypriots halt their actions, their energy research ship will be dispatched under guard of the Turkish Navy to begin carrying out exploration, and added they will not turn back on this issue. 

Dimitris Christofias, president of Cyprus, defended the actions of their state saying that it’s not even certain the quality of these deposits and the ability of extracting them, citing it will take at least a year of research and analysis from experts before it is determined.  Christofias said that for the Turkish Cypriots to jointly exploit the area, they will have to undergo some serious negotiating, as international law is on the side of the Greek Cypriots.  He concluded that if and when rights between the two factions are solved, they will be happy to share this gift nature has provided.

As far as the EU is concerned, spokesman for EU foreign policy, Maja Kocijancic, urged Turkey to withhold from any threats or plans of action that could affect negatively the relationships between the borders.  Kocijancic calls for exercised restraint from all parties involved in order to facilitate a resolution for Cyprus’ settlement after 37 years of regulatory limbo.

This issue continues to serve as a roadblock for Turkey’s bid to join the EU.