According to the Energy Ministry of Cyprus, ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum began exploratory drilling within block 10 of Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on Friday, November 16.
The US State Department’s foreign energy official, Francis Fannon, said the US Government had long supported the country’s right to take advantage of its natural resources.
Following a meeting with George Lakkotrypis, Cyprus’s energy minister, Fannon said:
“We view energy as a catalyst for cooperation, economic development and to benefit all the people in the region and Cyprus has a meaningful role to that end.”
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, has voiced opposition to any oil exploration, however. In February, the country used warships to block the path of a drill ship that had been contracted by Italian energy company ENI, forcing it to give up on its assignment.
Turkey, which invaded the island in 1974 following the Cypriot coup d’état earlier that year, occupies 36% of the island. It disputes the EEZ of Cyprus, claiming parts either for itself or for the Turkish Cypriot community. It believes that elements of blocks 1, 4, 6 and 7 belong in its own EEZ and that the Turkish Cypriot community should benefit from discoveries in blocks 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 12 and 13.
With ExxonMobil, which also makes lubricants for Mobil stockists, and Qatar Petroleum drilling in an undisputed block, it may be that Turkey will refrain from intervening this time, although it has indicated it may respond to any kind of exploration.