Turkey mulls oil exploration in row with Cyprus

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey said on Tuesday its oil company TPAO could issue tenders for international partners to search for oil in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas amid a row with Cyprus over energy exploration in the region. The two countries – hostile neighbors since a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup – are already at odds over Cyprus’s offshore exploration plans. The island, run by an internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government, is set to open tenders for offshore licensing agreements today, having signed accords to define its continental shelf with Egypt and Lebanon. Asked whether there would be problems if the respective exploration work overlapped, Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler told reporters this would depend on the stance of the two sides. «We in Turkey want to carry out our planned work as normal. We do not do this work to fit in with the attitudes of others,» he said, adding the planned tenders should not be seen as a reaction to Greek-Cypriot exploration plans. «We are not adopting these tactics in response to any country or incident. If necessary, we will hold talks if there is a dispute over fields. Ultimately this is a technical subject and diplomacy is one of the ways it can be resolved,» he said. Guler said foreign countries and companies would be invited to take part in the tenders as the work would involve activities outside TPAO’s areas of expertise. Earlier this month, Cyprus likened Turkey’s behavior in the oil exploration row to that of a pirate after Ankara urged countries in the eastern Mediterranean to avoid bilateral energy exploration agreements with Greek Cypriots. It said such deals could hamper efforts to settle the island’s decades-old partition. Studies have suggested the seas around Cyprus could contain reserves of between 6 and 8 billion barrels of crude.