US and Qatar energy giants had been awarded oil exploration licenses by Cyprus to exploit Section 5 of its self-declared exclusive economic zone.
ExxonMobil and its partner QatarEnergy began drilling off the coast of Cyprus on Tuesday amid threats by Turkish warships over concerns of violating its territory.
The two companies were awarded energy exploration licenses by Cyprus earlier this month, triggering Turkey to accuse Cyprus of violating its continental shelf, noting it would not permit unauthorised oil exploration in its jurisdiction.
Turkey has seized parts of block 10 of the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), defying soft European Union sanctions and warning other vessels to steer clear.
However, both the US and Qatar have assured Turkey that ExxonMobil and QatarEnergy (QE, formerly Qatar Petroleum) will not enter Turkey’s continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The operations will determine the gas quantities located in the reservoir there, the speed and the way of exploitation of the hydrocarbons in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone, Cyprus-based Philenews reported.
“The consortium carries out an appraisal well in the “Glafcos” gas find in block 10 which is estimated to carry a reservoir between 5 and 8 trillion cubic feet,” it added, noting that results are expected during the first quarter of 2022.
This comes as the EU’s Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell requested Turkey to sign the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
In response to a question by Greek Member of the European Parliament Manolis Kefalogiannis, Borrell said that as a candidate for EU membership, “Turkey must harmonise its national legislation with the bloc’s ‘acquis communautaire’ – the laws, regulations and court decisions by which all members agreed to abide,” according to Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper.
“The EU has signed and ratified UNCLOS,” it stated. However, Turkey has failed to comply with other block policies, and denies Cyprus recognition, blocking ships and planes with no sanctions although the latter is a member state.
Turkey signed an agreement with Libya in 2019 dividing the seas between them in a deal that Borrell said was rejected by the UN or any other country for violating the rights of third countries. The EU has yet to act upon it.
Block 10 was relinquished by the French petroleum refining company Total four years ago as it decided that “no gas potential was expected in the block.”
However, the block garnered interest from other giant energy firms as it is situated a few kilometers away from the Egyptian Zohr field, which has seen the biggest gas discovery (30 TCF) in the Mediterranean Sea.