Turkish minister says Ankara has no immediate plans for Aegean exploration

Turkey has no imminent plans to search for oil and gas in the Aegean and will not allow energy issues to create tensions between Athens and Ankara, Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz has revealed.

In comments to the English-language Hurriyet Daily News, Yildiz said, “We have the intention of using energy issues not as a reason to create tension but as a reason for growth and opening.” “We will see whether other countries will follow this principle,” Yildiz said, adding that Ankara had no plans “as of now” to conduct exploration for oil and gas in the Aegean.

Diplomatic sources in Athens said the comments were “in the right direction” but that they would wait to see whether Yildiz makes good on his pledges as Turkey recently announced its intention to search for hydrocarbons off Rhodes and Kastelorizo islands.

The minister’s comments came just a few days after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to start building trust in a bid to tackle bilateral disputes including a longstanding disagreement regarding territorial waters in the Aegean and the continental shelf.

Questioned by Hurriyet about Nicosia’s decision to prospect for oil and gas off the southern coast of Cyprus, Yildiz repeated Ankara’s conviction that it is “disputed areas” that are being explored and that any deposits found should be distributed to “all of Cyprus,” indicating the island’s Turkish-occupied north.

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