The licensing by Cyprus of Block 7 in its exclusive economic zone to a consortium made up of France’s Total and Italy’s Eni to prospect for hydrocarbons is seen as part of Nicosia’s effort to shore up its sovereign rights in light of Turkey’s illegal activities off its coast.
According to Cyprus Energy Minister Georgios Lakkotrypis, who announced the licensing Tuesday, the cabinet also approved Total’s gradual participation in blocks 2, 3, 8 and 9, where Eni already has a license to drill.
The decision to involve Total more actively in the island nation’s energy operations is also seen to be linked to France’s stated determination to defend its interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Block 3 had been blockaded in February last year by Turkish warships that prevented the Italian company from continuing its activities there.
Turkey remained defiant Tuesday with regard to its drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, as its Energy Minister Fatih Donmez insisted that Ankara will not back down from its demands in the region.
In remarks Tuesday, Donmez stressed that the completion of Turkey’s energy program in 2023 will give it the capability to store 5.4 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
It will be “one of the best answers to those who oppose the just activities of Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he added, referring to the country’s search for hydrocarbons in Cyprus’ EEZ.
“The issue of the Eastern Mediterranean not only concerns the relevant ministries; it is the issue of 82 million [citizens of Turkey],” he said, declaring that “Turkey is never without an alternative.”
“The legal rights of Turkey and [the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus] can never be a matter for bargaining.”
Turkey’s activities off Cyprus have been denounced as illegal by Greece and the European Union, which has slapped Ankara with symbolic sanctions.