In the past month, the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus (GCASC) and the Italian ENI, one of the companies recently licensed for exploration and production of hydrocarbons announced that they have completed the drilling of the Calypso 1 well in the so called Block # 6 and that they have made an important gas discovery.

Following this announcement of Cyprus and its natural resources, ENI’s Saipem 12000 drilling platform moved to the area identified by Greek Cypriots as Block # 3 to initiate another well. However, they had to withdraw 15 nautical miles away from the planned well location upon warnings from the vessels of the Turkish Navy, which declared a NAVTEX claiming that they would conduct military training and shooting exercises between February 9 and February 22 around that area.

As Saipem 12000 was moving towards Block 3, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a declaration stating that, “The Greek Cypriot Administration, in total disregard of the fundamental rights of the Turkish Cypriots, who are the co-owners of Cyprus Island and its natural resources, continues unilaterally with their hydrocarbon activities around Cyprus Island. In this context, we see the GCASC starting work on parcel number 3 in their supposedly exclusive economic zone.

… It is also important to emphasize that we do not condone the activities of the companies established in the third countries cooperating with the GCASC in the hydrocarbon field that credit the Greek Cypriot side’s attitude, which is far from constructive and constitutes a serious obstacle to a resolution of the Cyprus issue “.

As is widely known, there is not a common Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) agreement that all the riparian states in Eastern Mediterranean have consented to. There may be a few agreements between some riparian countries, but Turkey does not accept any of them. And this results in a vicious cycle of actualities, faits-accompli and the reactions in support of or against them.

The concept of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was established by the 1982 United Nations Convention on Maritime Law. MEB essentially gives a coastal state recognition of certain rights of sovereignty above or under the seabed within 200 nautical miles (Huseyin Pazarci).

However, if this 200-mile distance outlined overlaps with the 200-mile zone of another riparian state, as is the case in the Black Sea, The Aegean and The Mediterranean, the two coastal neighbors are expected to reach a joint agreement.

Turkey has no such agreement in Eastern Mediterranean with the other littoral states. However, although not declared, Turkey has its own claims for its EEZ. Hence, hydrocarbon exploration activities around Cyprus are the subject of constant problems and conflicts.

Cyprus and Its Natural Resources

What has further triggered all the unjust and illegitimate developments in the region was the EU’s ill-advised decision to recognize GCASC as the only authorized “state” of the island, and the inclusion of the state as Republic of Cyprus to the EU. Yet all the riches on the island as well as the territorial waters should belong to both communities equally. The GSACS, however, is trying to unilaterally make use of the gas reserves found around the Aphrodite field, which they previously identified as the 12th Block in the south of the island. Moreover, they are successfully using the presence of the claimed 125 billion cubic meters of gas in this field, in a carrot-and-stick strategy within the “solution process” carried out with the TRNC. So, the Greek Cypriots, while talking about a “solution (!)” on the one hand, on the other they also went around and opened the potential gas fields around the island to the use of international companies (unilaterally) with 3 separate auctions held on different dates. Their aim is not simply to sit on the hydrocarbon assets which actually belong to all the people in the island. They are also working to gather the support of giant oil companies and the countries they represent. ExxonMobil (USA), TOTAL (French), ENI (Italian), KOGAS (Korea) and Qatar Petroleum, affiliated with Qatar -Turkey’s Siamese twin (!) of recent years, have all obtained licenses here. Regretfully, we have not heard of any reports of Turkish Government questioning their Siamese twin Qatar’s presence in this unlawful game.

Cyprus and Its Natural Resources

Meanwhile, the license area that the Greek Cypriots call as Block # 6 happens to coincide partially with Turkey’ EEZ. Therefore, Turkey claims the sovereignty rights to intervene in the activities conducted here that is in their EEZ. Still GCASC and ENI went forward to drill the Calypso 1 well and announced that they “made a significant gas discovery”. Even if the location of Calypso 1 happens to be just under (and not within) Turkey’s EEZ, then there is still TRNC’s say to consider. Thus, a unilateral action by the GSASC here, is neither accepted by TRNC and nor Turkey under any circumstance.

Then there is the third block which overlaps with the F license granted to Turkish Petroleum Corporation by TRNC as a sovereign state representing the equal rights of the people of Cyprus, in response to the Greek Cypriots’ unilateral auctions. Thus, also here, there are the rights and interests of TRNC, Turkey and TPC to consider. It is only natural that the unilateral impositions by the Greek Cypriots side are not left unchallenged.

Furthermore, Turkey has authorized Turkish Petroleum (TP) and granted them all the pertinent licenses within its EEZ. This would render any activity by the GCASC to be a violation of the rights of TPC, and more importantly, the EEZ of Republic of Turkey. Turkey will surely stand against such a violation and unlawfulness.

As a natural consequence, Italian ENI was forced to keep the Saipem 12000 drilling platform 15 miles outside of its intended target in the face of Turkish Naval Forces’ NAVTEX statement at least until February 22, 2018. It should not come as a surprise if the Turkish Navy extends this date.

According to Haber Turk, “… the United Nations is concerned by the growing tension caused by GCASC’s   unilateral hydrocarbon activity in the Eastern Mediterranean”, and that General Secretary Antonio Guterres reiterated his call “for both communities to benefit from natural resources around Cyprus.” If this is a fact, it may be considered the most level-headed statement made by the UN on the matter.

In Summary About Cyprus and Its Natural Resources:

  • Despite claims made by the EU and GCASC, the islands do not have EEZ, they have territorial waters; and therefore, all the riches found on the island of Cyprus and in its territorial waters belong equally to both communities on the island. Additionally, GCASC alone cannot be accepted as the “Cyprus Republic” while their EEZ claims are unfounded and not acceptable. For this reason, the phases of exploration, development and export of hydrocarbons must be decided, applied and agreed by both parties. This is not a requisite alone; it is also a process that will help the two communities work together on hydrocarbons and will lead to a swifter resolution if the parties are really looking for a just solution.
  • The Greek Cypriot side is using the actualities around the Aphrodite field gas as a “carrot and stick” strategy for negotiations. This is utterly unlawful; the gas found/to-be- found belongs to both communities and not to the Greek side. That being said, the assumed 125 billion cubic meters of gas is not sufficient and economically viable to either transfer via a pipeline or export as LNG. Therefore, it has no use as a carrot. It is useful to know and realize this technical and economic reality and render its use (as a carrot and stick) ineffective during negotiations.
  • Turkey is the most suitable/economical market for the gas found near Cyprus as well gas from Israel (and the potential discoveries to be made in Lebanon and Syria’s EEZ). The Egyptian market for Cypriot gas has but all been disrupted following Zohr and the subsequent discoveries. Jordanian and Palestinian markets are negligibly small. The primary user of the natural resources in the territorial waters of Cyprus will be the island itself.
  • It is highly probable that the duration of the exercise by Turkish Naval Forces Command will be extended beyond February 22. Turkey’s unrelenting stance on this issue should be recognized as such.
  • Turkey and the TRNC, must draw up a “master plan” on Eastern Mediterranean hydrocarbon potential and its best use for both societies. Technical and economic aspects of the matter, as well as its geopolitical, strategic and security dimensions, should be taken into account.
  • As stressed by retired Rear Admiral Soner Polat, “Turkey’s reservations in claiming EEZ in Eastern Mediterranean have encouraged other coastal countries to sign agreements that violate Turkey’s “Blue Homeland”. We do not understand why Turkey has not yet declared an EEZ, and this has resulted in constant violations of our Blue Homeland (Blue Homeland is a term coined by retired Major Admiral Cem Gurdeniz, which covers an EEZ of 370 kilometers (200 nautical miles) of territorial waters around a country). The territories and waters whose borders are not drawn are deemed to be unclaimed. And this is why the issue should be placed directly and immediately under the agenda of the Grand National Assembly.