The conflict over gas in the eastern Mediterranean is intensifying. In February, the first case of intervention by the Turkish navy took place in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Cyprus. Last month, two more flashpoints have appeared.
The dispute concerns gas blocks, i.e. areas into which waters around Cyprus have been divided. Turkey does not recognize the government in Nicosia or its agreements regarding EEZ. Ankara thinks that the right to extract gas should also be exercised by the Turkish Cypriots and also by Turkey in the case of Blocks 4, 5, 6, and 7, through which – according to Ankara – passes the Turkish maritime border (the map below).
At the beginning of October, Cyprus put gas extraction in the disputed Block 7 out to tender, which the Gefira Team has informed about. In response to this, in the middle of the same month, Turkey sent an exploration ship assisted by four naval vessels and began exploration in the area of 44 thousand km2, including blocks 4 and 5.
Nicosia and Athens consider it a violation of the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus. On October 18, another event took place.
Greece reported that the Turkish ship had entered the Greek continental shelf, which provoke Athens to send the frigate Nikiforos to drive the Turks out.
[Location of the Turkish research ship Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa in October 2018 in the disputed area in the Eastern Mediterranean. Source: Marine Traffic]
In the vicinity of the disputed waters, exploration is carried out by, among others, Italian Eni, French Total and American ExxonMobil. When the Turkish Navy stopped an Eni research vessel in the EEZ of Cyprus in February, Rome decided to send a frigate. A violation of the interests of any of these companies will translate into the military involvement of other states, which may entail a conflict on a global scale.
Turkish exploration in the disputed area is planned to last until 1 February. Ankara, promising to take steps to secure its interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, accused Greece of carrying out an arbitrary demarcation of sea borders, which triggered the whole chain of events.
We expect that the conflict over gas around Cyprus will intensify because Turkey needs its own energy resources to reduce the trade deficit caused by the increase in the costs of the gas and oil imports.