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Istanbul — Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan Saturday announced plans for Turkey to conduct shallow water and deep water drilling in the Mediterranean, and to lease a second deepwater drill ship, in addition to the Deepsea Metro 2, which Turkey's state upstream operator Turkish Petroleum (TP) took delivery of in December last year.

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Erdogan did not say where the two vessels would begin drilling. Last month Turkish daily, Hurriyet Daily News reported that TP's deep water drill ship was off shore from Turkey's southern province of Antalya but again did not say the vessels would start drilling in that area.

TP has on two occasions in the past three years conducted seismic surveys inside the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claimed by the Republic of Cyprus, citing an agreement with the internationally unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which occupies the northern third of the divided island.

Turkey has long protested against the allocation of exploration licenses by the government of the Republic of Cyprus, such as that awarded to US-based Noble Energy in 2008 for Block 12, and the subsequent awarding of a production license for the same block in 2011 following the discovery of the estimated 200 billion cu m Aphrodite gas field.

Ankara formerly called for a moratorium on exploitation of the island's offshore hydrocarbon potential pending the conclusion of an agreement over the reunification of the two parts of the island.

However, following the failure of reunification talks it has stated its intention to launch its own exploration ventures, pointing out that reserves remain the property of the whole island, not just the Republic of Cyprus, and citing the agreement with the TRNC.

Erdogan also announced plans to determine the potential of Turkey's shale and coal bed methane reserves.

TP has conducted test drilling of the Thrace shale bed in northwest Turkey, and of the Dadas shale bed in Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey -- the latter in partnership with Shell. However, no results of the drilling have been released.

--David O'Byrne,

--Edited by Jonathan Dart,