Turkey warns oil firms eyeing Cyprus shelf

Nov. 5, 2012 at 12:04 AM
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ANKARA, Turkey, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Energy companies cooperating with Greek Cypriot offshore drilling plans will be banned from participating in new oil and gas projects in Turkey, Ankara says.

Turkey's foreign ministry issued a statement Saturday reiterating warnings to oil companies taking part in last week's four Mediterranean Sea concessions awarded off the shore of Greek-held southern Cyprus.

The awards came as part of a second gas-licensing round launched by Nicosia in February. The U.S. company Noble is working to the south of the new blocks as part of a first-round concession.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Turkey itself, meanwhile, claim equal rights to the economic benefits of the whole continental shelf of the island.

After issuing a pair of warnings earlier this year, Ankara again promised economic consequences for those enabling the development of the Mediterranean field, which together with finds in adjoining Israeli waters have been estimated to hold total gross mean resources of more than 33 trillion cubic feet.

The Turkish statement called the licensed offshore blocks "disputed areas over which Turkish Cypriots also have rights," warning Italy's ENI and Total, South Korea's KOGAS and others gaining the concessions "will not be allowed to take part in new energy projects in Turkey.

"We, therefore, repeat our call to the relevant countries and oil companies to act with common sense, not to engage in activities in these areas which are disputed especially due to the Cyprus issue and to withdraw from the said tender," Ankara asserted.

Nicosia's move to grant more drilling concessions "(ignored) the rights of the Turkish Cypriots," the statement said.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Friday his country may "reconsider" its investments in Eni as a result of the Cyprus dispute, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported.

Declaring it "not right" to drill in disputed areas, Yildiz said, "If Eni goes into such a thing, then we will think over their Turkey investments. As you know, it has a share in the Samsun-Ceyhan [pipeline], and of course we might put this on our agenda."

Yildiz was referring to the planned Samsun-Ceyhan crude oil pipeline, which would run from Turkey's Black Sea province of Samsun to its Mediterranean hub at Ceyhan.

The Italian company is also participating in the 16 billion-cubic-meter Blue Stream system, which sends Russian natural gas to Turkey under the Black Sea, the newspaper said.

Ukraine's Novatec also was awarded a license to explore for gas in the four contiguous blocks, located north of Noble's current Block 12.

Turkey issued warnings of a military response when drilling on the first concession began last year, but none was forthcoming after Nicosia obtained the support of the United Nations -- which does not recognize Turkish-held Northern Cyprus -- and the Western powers.

Greek Cypriot Commerce Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis said the government would continue to evaluate bids submitted for the remaining blocks -- meaning another batch of licenses could be awarded in the future, the Cyprus Mail reported.

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