Map showing disputed Cyprus underwater gas fields, as well as those being contested by Israel and Lebanon
Undersea drilling for natural gas by the Greek Cypriot government now appears to be more problematic than just their fears of disturbing the undersea environment or undersea territorial claims by regional countries like Israel and Lebanon. Cypriot’s “neighbor,” the Turkish-occupied and controlled Northern Cyprus, is now giving more than just “veiled threats” according to two regional news sources, Cyprus News Report, and Turkey’s Hurriyet News Company. Will the next Middle East war be over water or natural gas?
Noble Energy drilling platform
Southern Cyprus had originally entered into drilling agreements with the American offshore drilling company Noble Energy Inc, the same company that is now partnering with Delek Energy, headed by Israeli Billionaire tycoon Yitshak Tshuva.
Tshuva’s Yam Tethys Gas Company was one of the first regional players to team up with Noble Energy to drill offshore natural gas wells in the eastern Mediterranean in projects that have been ongoing since 2009. They’ve struck it big: Tshuva’s company and Noble Energy won out in an energy tender issued by Israel’s electricity utility, the Israel Electric Company (IEC), to supply natural gas to provide energy for IEC’s power plants.
This desire by IEC for its own source for natural gas follows continued sabotage against the Sinai pipeline that has been supplying natural gas to Israel from Egypt.
Southern Cyprus’s biggest fear may not be the undersea environment, but an “above ground” one from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which with the assistance of its mentor, Turkey, is now reminding both its southern neighbor that just as Israel is still technically at war with Lebanon, so are the two separate regions, Northern and Southern Cyprus.
As such, Turkey considers any drilling agreements between southern Cyprus and Israel “null and void.”
A gas headache
Turkey meanwhile continues to issue threats that “it will take action” if the TRNC is not included in any energy deals made by Southern Cyprus.
According to Turkish Cyprus President Derviş Eroğlu,
“The underwater sources around the island of Cyprus do not belong to Greek Cypriots only, but to Turkish Cypriots and Turkey as well. Unilateral gas drilling plans by Southern Cyprus would cause headaches.”
Headaches indeed, as such plans only widen the gap that is still very much in effect between the two sections of the island, and still divides the former capital for the entire island, Nicosia. Along with this continuing issue, Turkish Energy & Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız said earlier this month that “Turkey does not consider the Greek Cypriot administration’s planned oil and natural gas projects in the Mediterranean to be legitimate.”
TRNC President Dervis Eroglu
Undersea drilling plans for the Greek Cypriot Republic are still very much up in the air, and “will lead to several inconveniences” according to Turkish Cyprus President Derviş Eroğlu.
One can only speculate as to what those “inconveniences” could be. But Israel is now making stronger alliances with Cyprus while natural gas developers boost economic ties with Cyprus through jointly-owned and operated distillation facilities on Cyprus. This brings the natural gas closer to Europe – Cyprus unlike Turkey is a EU member – and cuts down security risks for Israel.
Map: Noble Energy Inc
More about regional natural gas drilling and shipment issues:
Cyprus fears impact of undersea gas drilling
Third Egyptian Natural Gas Pipeline Blown Up by Terrorists
Lebanon Challenges Israel’s Natural Gas Borders at Sea
Hezbollah Interferes With Israel’s Energy Business