A 1977 dispute between France and the UK has set a precedent on a similar dispute between Greece and Turkey on the latter's exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, the country's Energy and Natural Resources Minister said on Wednesday.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency's Editors' Desk, Fatih Donmez asserted that Turkey's exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean are in line with international law.
He said that in the 1977 dispute, France had rejected the UK’s claims that its continental shelf started from its Channel Islands, which are closer to France, similar to Turkey’s argument against claims of Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration's continental shelf rights to territory close to Turkey’s coast.
He said the decision of the International Court of Justice, which ruled in favor of France, set a precedent.
Tensions have recently escalated over energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece support by the Greek Cypriot Administration, both of which claim to dispute territorial rights to waters and resources in the East Mediterranean.
Greece, Greek-controlled Southern Cyprus and other EU members have tried to block Turkey’s energy exploration, claiming it is searching in Greek waters while using a maximalist view of Athens’ maritime territory based on small islands near the Turkish coast.
"Listening only to the Greek Cypriot Administration and Greece, the EU is taking a one-sided approach without listening to the other side," he said.
According to Donmez, the EU needs to acknowledge its difficulty in supporting these arguments particularly with the announcements of support that Turkey has received.
Turkey – the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean – says this view is illegal and makes no sense. It has sent out drillships, with a military escort, to conduct energy exploration on its continental shelf, based on both Turkey and the TRNC’s equal rights in the region.
Turkey has repeatedly urged negotiations with no preconditions to determine the equitable sharing of the region’s resources.
Last year, Turkey conducted 120 onshore drillings reaching peak production of 47,000 barrels, but the minister said this record was broken on Tuesday with a record daily production capacity of 55,260 barrels.
The energy minister was optimistic that oil and gas potential in the Black Sea could be akin to that from the North Sea fields, which has met the majority of Europe's natural gas and oil demand.
"However, the production in the North Sea is in decline and, therefore, the Black Sea is important not only for Turkey but also for the region," he said.
Donmez confirmed that the approximate cost of production from the country’s new discovery in the Sakarya Field in the Black Sea, which Turkey will meet with its own resources, would only be calculated after field development activities. These include pipelines from the field and related facilities and the procurement of the necessary equipment.
He further clarified that daily and annual production capacities could only be calculated after production for an initial three to four years before the country reaches its maximum production level.
Donmez referenced demands from neighboring countries over drilling and seismic exploration services and confirmed that Turkey’s own exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea would be prioritized.
By Ebru Sengul Cevrioglu and Sibel Morrow