EU and Egypt warn Turkey against drilling off Cyprus

According to reports in the Cypriot media, the Turkish drilling will encroach on Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 04 May 2019
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EU and Egypt warn Turkey against drilling off Cyprus

  • Turkey said its vessels would be carrying out drilling operations in the Mediterranean until September
  • According to reports in the Cypriot media, the operation will encroach on Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone

BRUSSELS: The EU and Egypt on Saturday urged Turkey to reconsider plans to start exploratory drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus, already condemned as illegal by the European Union.

The Egyptian foreign ministry warned of the repercussions of "any unilateral measures on the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean region."

"Any actions by states in the region need to abide by the rules of international law and its provisions," the ministry statement said.

The EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said: “We express grave concern over Turkey’s announced intention to carry out drilling activities within the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus,” .
“In March 2018, the European Council strongly condemned Turkey’s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean,” she added.
“In this context, we urgently call on Turkey to show restraint,” she added, warning that the EU would “respond appropriately to any illegal action that violated Cyprus’s rights.”
On Friday Turkey sent out a message on NAVTEX, the international maritime navigational telex system, announcing its vessels would be carrying out drilling operations in the Mediterranean until September.
According to reports in the Cypriot media, the operation will encroach on Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone.
Turkey first announced it would be drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus back in February.
The discovery of gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has prompted claims by the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government and Ankara, which backs a breakaway Turkish Cypriot administration in the north of the island.
European Union member Cyprus has been pressing to develop offshore gas deposits and has signed deals with energy giants Eni, Total and ExxonMobil that have seen them carry out exploratory drilling.
Ankara claims that such exploration deprives the Turkish Cypriot minority of benefiting from the natural resources that surround the island.
In February 2018 a drillship for Italy’s Eni abandoned an attempt to search for gas off Cyprus after it was blocked by Turkish warships.
Turkey has had thousands of troops stationed in the northern third of the island since invading in 1974 in response to a Greek military junta-sponsored coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece.
The northern part of the island was declared the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is only recognized by Ankara. UN-sponsored efforts to reunify the island have failed.


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019
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Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.