Turkish Cypriots in dialogue with international energy companies for hydrocarbon resources: Minister
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Turkish Cypriot officials have had meetings with Italian Eni, which struck a license agreement with the Greek Cypriot side to extract natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean and have made presentations to representatives of U.S. energy companies licensed by the Greek Cypriots, said Kudret Özersay, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs for the Turkish side.
Turkish Cyprus is asking these companies to insist on a fair share of natural resources between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot governments as a way for the Turkish side to gain international recognition, Özersay said at a meeting with members of the Association of Diplomatic Correspondents on Aug. 22.
The expectation of the Turkish side is that the United States’ Noble and Exxon Mobil companies, as well as Italian ENI and French Total companies, which are carrying out drilling activities off the Cyprus shore after signing license agreements with the Greek Cypriots, will conditionally require the approval of both sides of the island and the fair share of natural resources in order to transfer the hydrocarbon resources of the island to global markets even before parties reach a reunification settlement.
Turkish Cypriots have talked with the Italian Eni company, Özersay said, when asked whether they are in contact with international energy companies to sell the island’s hydrocarbon resources.
“We had a dialogue [with Eni], even theoretically, on the issues of how and at what stage we can have cooperation,” he said, noting that these companies needed dialogue with Turkish Cyprus as they seek to eliminate their trade risks.
Additionally, some representatives of U.S. energy companies, which are already licensed by Greek Cypriots, were present at the conference he presented in Washington early this year, Özersay said.
“Half of the participants were company representatives. They asked what we meant and asked how it could be procedurally. We told them that we can overcome the problem of recognition if the business is conducted through private companies. We have previous cases for this.”
“They signal that they are open to discuss formulas in which Turkish Cypriots will be included, thus reducing the risk,” he said.
At the end of the day, the international energy companies should tell the Greek Cypriot leadership, “We have come to the point of excavation so far. But this resource will be delivered to the world markets and converted into money. At this threshold, I cannot take responsibility; the risk is high. You should negotiate with the Turkish Cypriots and agree on this,” according to Özersay.
And this cooperation does not need to wait for a settlement in Cyprus, he noted.
The issue of hydrocarbon resources should be undertaken separate from the issue of reunification talks, he said. “Whether … the Cyprus dispute is resolved, the issue of natural resources is a regional matter.”
As an example of how to conduct fair share of natural resources through private companies even before the Turkish and Greek Cypriots reach a reunification settlement, Özersay recalled that Turkish Cypriots offered electricity to Greek Cypriots when the lines in the south exploded in 2010.
The Greek Cypriots rejected the offer at first, as the transfer would be carried through a public institution as they do not recognize the Turkish Cypriot state. But then they welcomed the offer when Turkish Cyprus proposed to deliver the electricity through its trade office.
Özersay stressed that the best option is mutual consensus between the two sides on fair share of the hydrocarbon resources of the Island, but if the Greek Cypriots fail to do so, the Turkish side will push for further licenses and agreements in their maritime zones.
“If we find resources within the maritime areas to the north of the island, we say that this also belongs to Greek Cypriots,” he stated. But this scenario will see simultaneous drillings activities of two sides in the same region, he added.
The Turkish Cypriots disregard the idea of using hard power for benefiting these resources, the only way there would be agreements of licenses and drilling activities, he emphasized.
He recalled that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots were not taking this action until 2011 on the argument that “as long as there is no comprehensive settlement area in Cyprus, no one should be involved in maritime jurisdiction activities in this region.”
“But the result was against us. Because the Greeks were creating irreversible de facto situations. In 2011, we went to paradigm change for the first time. We had deals with Turkey for delimitation of its continental shelf and agreements for drilling activities.”
“Today, we are at the point where the balance in the Eastern Mediterranean region, which was distorted, is restored,” he said. “If we hadn’t done this work and hadn’t built this balance in the field, the possibility of conflict would be very high today,” Özersay noted. Turkey has been carrying out two separate drilling operations off Cyprus, along with exploration of a seismic research vessel- Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa - in the south coast of the island since April 2017.
The Turkish-flagged drillship, Fatih, was dispatched in May and currently is in an area [within Turkey’s continental shelf] located 75 kilometers off the western coast of Cyprus Island, over permit licenses that the Turkish government previously granted to Turkish Petroleum, the country’s national oil company. Ankara expanded its operations with a second drillship in June with the vessel, Yavuz, sailing off eastern Cyprus over a license to Turkish Petroleum (TPAO) provided by the Turkish Cypriot authorities.
Ankara has also dispatched the Oruç Reis seismic research vessel to the Eastern Mediterranean in August. Its final destination is yet to be officially announced.
“We are intensifying our presence in the field in order to strengthen our position in the diplomatic arena,” a foreign ministry official told Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity. Citing Greek Cypriot’s argument that the Turkish drilling activity in the west coast of Cyprus Island interferes in the area of so-called “Greek Cypriot exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” the official pointed to the fact that the area lies in Turkey’s continental shelf.
‘Turkey to defend its rights in E. Med. to full extent'
Turkish President reiterated on Aug. 24 Turkey’s determination to defend its rights in Eastern Mediterranean while addressing a large crowd of people in Yusufeli district of the northeastern province of Artvin.
Criticizing Western states’ opposition to Turkey’s move in the region, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: “We will defend Turkey’s rights in Eastern Mediterranean to the full extent despite Western threats.”