Istanbul — Turkey will continue with its drilling program in areas of the East Mediterranean claimed by Cyprus, despite the EU Council on Monday adopting a framework for sanctions that can be imposed against those held responsible.
In a written statement on Tuesday, Turkey's foreign ministry described the EU move as "unintelligent", accusingBrussels of having long since "lost...its credibility to stand as an impartial actor" and ignoring Ankara's efforts "to turn the hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean into an element of stability rather than of tension."
Repeating Ankara's usual claim that Turkish drilling activities in the region are being conducted in line with international law, the ministry warned that Turkey will not "bow to threats and back down on its rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, and will continue our exploration and drilling activities."
Speaking to the media at Ankara airport on his way to Washington, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan reacted strongly to the news of the EU sanctions, warning Brussels that Ankara will continue with the deportation, started Monday, of ISIS terrorists holding EU nationality, despite the refusal of EU countries to accept them.
Erdogan also issued a thinly veiled threat against Brussels pointing out that Turkey currently plays host to 4 million Syrian refugees, warning that Brussels should change its "attitude" to Turkey.
Cyprus is already home to as much as 550 Bcm of gas resources following the Aphrodite, Calypso and Glaucus discoveries of recent years, so the stakes are high as the dispute over maritime rights continues to intensify.
Turkey's state upstream operator TPAO began drilling in May with its drillship Fatih in an area northwest of Cyprus claimed by the Republic of Cyprus as part of its Exclusive Economic Zone.
It was followed by a second ship the Yavuz, which began drilling the Karpaz-1 well in the Bay of Gazimagusa offthe east coast of Cyprus in August.
The Yavuz subsequently moved south of the island to Cyprus' Block 7, for which the Cypriot government in September signed agreements with France's Total and Italy's Eni giving them the license to drill in the block.
Ankara claims that the northwest part of the block is situated on Turkey's continental shelf, which under its interpretation of maritime law gives it the right to prospect there.
The Fatih last month ended its drilling northwest of Cyprus and returned to port in Turkey.
Energy minister Fatih Donmez announced that the vessel was being resupplied prior to being sent back to Cypriotwaters but did not confirm where exactly it would drill.
No results of the drilling have been released although Donmez did confirm in September that the Fatih had drilled to a depth of 4,000 meters and would continue down to 5,500 meters.
Erdogan announced last month that TPAO plans to buy or lease a third drill ship but gave no further details.
The Turkish Presidency's 2020 program published last week announced that during 2020 Turkey plans to drill fivewells and to conduct 3,000 km of 3-D seismic surveys and 20,707 sq km of 2-D seismic surveys in Cypriot waters.
-- David O'Byrne, firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Edited by Alisdair Bowles, email@example.com