Turkey offers cooperation with South Cyprus and Israel

Turkey has offered to cooperate with its neighbours, rich in hydrocarbons, with the exploration and transportation of gas and oil finds to world markets.

Hungry for energy, it has made this offer to both Israel and South Cyprus, which has recently created controversy regarding the legality of issuing licenses for hydrocarbon exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

“Israeli officials, local officials in South Cyprus and representatives of the TRNC, they have all agreed on one reality: The natural gas to be produced from this region will get its utmost feasibility by a pipeline that will pass through Turkey. All relevant figures prove this idea,” Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told a Turkish daily, outlining the Turkish government’s energy policies regarding oil and gas reserves of its southern neighbours.

In Washington, last week, Yildiz held meetings with acting Secretary of Energy, Daniel Poneman and President Barack Obama’s special envoy for energy issues, Carlos Pascual.

The meetings were vital since the two allies disagree on a number of issues related to Turkeys interest in making energy deals with the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq and the Turkey-South Cyprus quarrel over the Greek Cypriot government’s ambitious moves for oil exploration and the south’s disputed claims on drilling rights off the south Cyprus coast.

Although Yildiz underscores the fact that Turkey seems to be the best route for these countries to transport their products to world markets, he does not want the world to think that Turkey seeks to abuse its geographical advantage in its potential talks with its neighbours.

“Turkey does not say ‘Well, you are obliged to pass through our territories, so let’s talk over this.’ It adopts a very realistic approach,” he said. “Instead, Turkey says it’s open to any sort of projects with the accomplishment of political stability in the region,” Yildiz continued.

Currently ideas are in the air that recently discovered oil and gas reserves off the island could offer an opportunity for Turkish and Greek Cypriots to resolve their differences and agree on a peace plan. This could help to stabilise political differences in the region, given that the age old Cyprus problem has not been solved, despite multiple attempts to mediate by the United Nations.

“I agree that opportunity is there. But this should have legality,” Yildiz said, adding that the current status of the Greek Cypriot oil explorations in the Mediterranean was illegal as there was no deal among the countries who have coastlines on the definition of economic exclusive zones.

“When will they become legal? As put by our prime minister, they won’t become legal until these reserves are shared by the entire island. Will works be legal when [reserves are] shared? Yes.”

The involvement of foreign energy companies from many western countries including the United States makes the situation a little more complicated as Turkey said it would not allow those companies operating on the island to do business in its territories. US energy company, Noble is one of those companies currently holding a licence to explore for hydrocarbons off the coast of south Cyprus.

Yildiz said he made clear to his American counterparts the Turkish position regarding South Cyprus’ operations and underlined that “We have seen that not only our correctness but also our rightfulness is being confirmed [by the U.S.].”

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