Under pressure in Libya–where it’s gone head-to-head with General Haftar in an ongoing battle to decide who gets to ultimately control the country’s oil revenues–and floundering in Syria, Turkey is once again upping the ante in the Mediterranean, this time preparing to issue new oil and gas exploration licenses in direct confrontation with the European Union.
It’s not just about Cyprus, anymore. Turkey’s state-run oil and gas company has been given licenses from the Turkish government to explore for oil and gas in 24 locations in the East Mediterranean. Seven of those locations are just off the coast of key Greek islands.
It’s a direct provocation that has Greece infuriated, and experts worried that this could lead to direct clashes once Turkey starts exploration drilling.
Last weekend, Turkey released a draft plan for Turkish Petroleum’s exploration license.
On Monday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said in a statement that the country “stands ready to deal with this provocation should Turkey decide to implement this decision”.
The draft plan explicitly violates Greek sovereignty, and it is designed to take advantage of a new maritime boundary agreement Erdogan wrangled last year with the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya. This was the trade-off for Libya’s aid in fighting back General Haftar in his push to take the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
The maritime boundary is meant to perform a pincer movement against Cyprus, which is drilling offshore in its EEZ where Turkey has also provocatively deployed drillships. In the Greek Cypriot EEZ alone, there are an estimated 120 billion cubic meters of natural gas, for which drilling began in 2011. The first license here was granted in 2008 to American Noble Energy (the same company behind the massive Israeli discoveries).
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