Hydrocarbon exploration by neighboring countries in the Mediterranean has led to increased tensions in recent years.
Oil and gas research in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly around the island of Cyprus and in certain other locations, is of huge importance for these neighboring countries in terms of energy security.
On the other hand, Turkey's recent oil and gas research activities in the Eastern Mediterranean have put the region’s energy equilibrium on the agenda of actors actively operating there.
In this context, top global energy companies arrived in the region and began competing with one another to obtain their share of energy research and transfer projects, which are expected to be worth billions of dollars.
The energy equilibrium in the Eastern Mediterranean presents various problems but also opportunities for cooperation among the parties involved.
The following compilation by Anadolu Agency provides answers to the top 10 questions regarding this energy equilibrium:
1- Which countries are currently active and want to benefit from the energy sources of the region?
Geographically, the region is neighbored by Turkey, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Egypt, Greece, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Israel and southern Cyprus. All of these parties are pursuing active policies in the energy-rich region.
Despite not bordering the region, the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France and Italy also seek to maintain their influence in the region.
2- What is the estimated size of hydrocarbon reserves in the region?
According to data provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Levant region of the Eastern Mediterranean -- which includes Syrian coasts -- holds a reserve of 1.7 billion barrels of oil and 3.5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.
3- Which energy companies currently operate in the Eastern Mediterranean?
Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO), U.S.-based ExxonMobil and Noble Energy, France's Total, Italy's Eni energy company, South Korea’s Kogas, Qatar Petroleum, British Gas (BG) of the U.K. and Israel's Delek Drilling and Avner Oil are currently the main actors operating in the region.
4- How many parcels do natural gas and oil research regions include?
The region is composed of 13 so-called research parcels which were unilaterally announced by southern Cyprus.
Parcels 1, 2 and 3 are located in the north; parcels 4,5,6,7,8,9 and 13 are in the middle whereas parcels 10, 11 and 12 are located in the south.
5- On which parcels do parties conflict on the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Eastern Mediterranean?
The only regions where Turkey and TRNC's right claims do not collide with the so-called EEZ unilaterally declared by southern Cyprus are the 10th and 11th. There are still hot debates regarding all of the other parcels.
6- Which companies operate in the 13 parcels?
Italy's Eni and South Korea's Kogas have a joint license to operate in the 2nd, 3rd and 9th parcels; Eni holds 80% of the partnership whereas Kogas holds 20%.
Eni and Total have equal shares in 6th and 11th parcels. Eni is the only one with a license in the 8th parcel.
As for the 12th parcel, Israel's Delek Drilling has a 30% share, whereas Noble Energy of the U.S. and BG of the U.K. hold 35% shares respectively.
In the 10th parcel, a partnership between ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum currently possesses their so-called licenses. Negotiations regarding the 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th and 13th parcels are ongoing.
7- What is Turkey's policy in the Eastern Mediterranean?
Turkey argues that Turkish Cypriots have equal rights with Greek Cypriots, so TRNC must benefit from the hydrocarbon resources in an equal manner.
Ankara has emphasized that it does not recognize the EEZ areas unilaterally declared by southern Cyprus, where energy companies and the U.S., U.K., France and Italy operate.
The Turkish administration has underlined that it would not allow these parties to conduct research and production operations in the areas colliding with Turkey's sea realm of authority.
In addition, Turkey has repeatedly stressed that southern Cyprus is not a state representing the whole island, so it has no right to create EEZs or tender them for contracts.
As southern Cyprus could trigger an illegal situation in the island's northern, eastern and southern areas -- where parties do not conflict on operational zones -- TRNC gave license areas to Turkish Petroleum Corporation. As a result, it reacted to southern Cyprus' attempts to create EEZs by forming parcels despite not representing the whole Island.
8- Does Turkey conduct research operations in the region?
Turkey's drilling ship Fatih (Conqueror) actively carries out research and drilling activities in the A,B,C,D,E,F and G areas which were licensed by TRNC.
Above-mentioned areas are included in the EEZs declared by Turkish Cypriots. Furthermore, Turkey's second drilling vessel, Yavuz, is expected to be operational in the region as of July.
9- What is the policy southern Cyprus pursues in the region?
The competing energy companies and countries such as the U.S., France and Italy -- which directly or indirectly own these companies -- see southern Cyprus as if it had sovereignty over the whole island and claim their licenses are legitimate.
For energy research and extracting operations, southern Cyprus works together with external actors such as the U.S., Italy and France, whereas it collaborates with regional actors such as Israel, Egypt and Greece for energy transfer.
10- What is East-Med pipeline project? Can this project exclude Turkey from the energy equilibrium in the region?
The East-Med pipeline project aims to transfer Mediterranean gas to Europe through Israel, southern Cyprus and Greece.
In light of the geological fragility of the region and length of the pipeline, the projected pipeline is not viewed as feasible from technical and economic angles.
On top of this, this project -- which is also supported by the European Union -- goes through Turkey's territorial waters.
In order to be able to operate on a legal basis, the actors in the controversial region must act taking Turkey into account.
Writing By Ali Murat Alhas