Cypriot government to challenge Turkey's drilling plans

The government of the Republic of Cyprus plans to protest any exploratory drilling for oil and gas in the Turkish-occupied northern part of the politically divided island.

“We are investigating the issue, and have already brought it to the attention of the UN representation in Cyprus,” said Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou Markouli.

Supported by Turkey’s government, Turkish Cypriots are due to carry out drilling in the Famagusta region in eastern Cyprus, Markouli told local media.

“If our intelligence is verified, then we’re dealing with a very serious issue—ancient Enkomi is one of the most important archaeological sites in Cyprus,” Markouli said, referring to an area of Famagusta.

“But whether it takes place near the archaeological site or not, any kind of drilling in the occupied north constitutes an illegal act, which we will denounce in the EU and other international organizations,” she said.

Meanwhile, an official of the Turkish-Cypriot government said that infrastructural work has begun at a site near Famagusta in preparation for exploratory drilling by Turkey’s state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corp. (TPAO).

The unnamed official told local media that work was the first step towards the drilling of four, 3,000-m wells under the Cypriot countryside near the village of Lapathos in Famagusta.

The official said the start of drilling came as a result of “expert information” on the possible presence of hydrocarbons in the area, and also from a refusal by the government of Cyprus to suspend its own exploration efforts pending reunification of the island.

“We proposed either waiting for a solution or working together on oil and gas exploration. They refused both, so we’re going ahead with our own,” the official said.

Soyer Arpalikli, head of Arpalikli Ltd., one of two companies commissioned to build the location in Famagusta, said the site should be ready to hand over to TPAO for drilling to begin on Feb 28.

The start of work follows an agreement signed by the north’s authorities and TPAO on Nov. 2 for exploration, drilling, and extraction rights on land controlled by the breakaway state.

Last November, when announcing the exploration project, Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said TPAO had seismic data collected previously from the area that suggested deposits existed there.

“There is no guarantee that there is oil or natural gas there, but this is a serious operation,” he said.

A member state of the EU, Cyprus has been divided into a Greek-dominated south and a Turkish dominated north since 1974. The southern government is internationally recognized, while the north is recognized only by Turkey.

Last month, the Cypriot government said Noble Energy Inc. made a gas discovery offshore on Block 12 with the Cyprus A-1 well, which encountered 310 ft of net gas pay.

“This latest discovery in Cyprus further highlights the quality and significance of this world-class basin,” said Noble Energy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Charles D. Davidson (OGJ Online, Dec. 28, 2011).

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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