Turkey raises energy stakes as drillship sails through Aegean
The passage of a Turkish drillship through the Aegean on Thursday was seen as a loud message to Athens that Ankara plans to play a part in energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean and the wider region.
Although the Deep Sea Metro 2 and the Turkish corvette Bafra escorting it were traveling in international waters, their journey from an area southeast of the Peloponnese through the Aegean heading for Istanbul was viewed in Greece as a display of Ankara’s determination not to be left out of the region’s unfolding energy map, at a time when Athens has already begun initiatives to partially extend its sea zones.
Thursday’s route taken by the Deep Sea Metro 2 – charted by Turkey for exploratory offshore drilling in the Mediterranean Sea in 2018 – and the Bafra was known to Greece in advance, and for this reason both the Hellenic Armed Forces General Staff (GEETHA) and the navy were put on alert.
According to reports, navy frigate Elli began to monitor the situation when the Bafra met up with the drillship south of the Peloponnese.
Several reports said on Thursday that the drillship will be renamed in a special ceremony in Istanbul, which could bring confirmation of recent Turkish media reports claiming that the drillship has been purchased and not chartered.
Turkey’s plans to explore for gas in the Eastern Mediterranean and its non-recognition of a part of Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone has raised concerns in Nicosia, wary of intrusions into its EEZ.
Moreover, Nicosia is waiting to see whether Turkey will explore for gas south of the island or off the coast of its occupied part.
Despite Nicosia’s concerns, Ankara is not expected to make any moves in the coming days, when the Italian-French consortium of energy giants ENI and Total is scheduled to start drilling in Block 6 of Cyprus’s EEZ, as the Deep Sea Metro 2 will be in Istanbul.
Nonetheless, the presence of seismic vessels such as the Barbaros in the area around Cyprus is still a cause for concern.
Ankara’s mobilization in the region also comes as research is being conducted into whether the construction of the EastMed undersea gas pipeline from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe is feasible.