Turkey can immediately begin drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean based on the Turkey-Libya pact signed on Nov. 27 that has determined the countries’ maritime rights covering their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEC), Professor Ata Atun, dean of Cyprus Science University's Faculty of Engineering, told Anadolu Agency on Friday.
The deal struck by the Turkish government and Libya’s UN-recognized government has set marine jurisdictions to protect the rights of both countries in line with the international law of the sea. With this demarcation, both countries are determined to counter any unilateral and illegal activities in the region by other regional countries and international firms without considering the rights of Turkey or Libya.
"The deal is one of the most important in the 21st century for Turkey since energy projects in the region cannot go ahead without Turkey’s permission," Atun said.
He explained the plan of the Greek Cyprus Administration to send Eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe bypassing Turkey is now doomed to failure.
According to Atun, this deal has set a precedent for others. He expects that a similar deal will follow with Egypt because of Cairo’s 25% area loss in its deal with the Greek Cypriot administration.
During the era of Egypt’s elected president Mohammed Morsi starting in 2011, Egypt canceled the EEC deal that was struck by former president Hosni Mubarak in 2003 and began to cooperate with Turkey. However, the Morsi government was toppled before Egypt could sign a deal with Turkey. After the coup in Egypt in 2013, the Sisi administration reverted to the policy determined during Mubarak's time and sided with the Greek Cypriot administration despite the losses they incurred in the region, Atun explained.
“I am sure that Egypt will understand this mistake and agree with Turkey after Sisi leaves office," he affirmed.
Atun asserts the Eastmed project that plans on linking gas reserves from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe is not feasible either technologically or financially.
The gas reserves from the Aphrodite field are low quality, dry gas making the project very expensive in terms of extraction, he said.
Israel, the other partner that is exploring the extraction of resources in conjunction with Egypt and the Greek Cypriot Administration, has not ruled out sending gas to Europe via Turkey, Atun said.
"Turkey has vital importance for Israel. I know that Israel is still in touch with a huge Turkish company about this."
Syria, the other country in the region that would be anxious to benefit from these reserves, is experiencing economic difficulties. As a result, Atun said the Assad regime is looking for an opportunity to reconcile with Turkey.
A deal similar to the one with Libya is also possible once the situation in the country stabilizes, he affirmed.
- Similar agreements are expected
Following the Libya agreement, Cem Gurdeniz, director of Koc University Marine Forum told Anadolu Agency that Greece’s Aegean Sea plan to isolate Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots from reserves in the Mediterranean Sea collapsed.
According to Gurdeniz, Greece’s expulsion of the Libyan ambassador along with its declaration “We are prepared for every possibility against Turkey,” even to the extent of inferring a state of war by high-ranking Greek military officers, shows only the country’s despair.
"Turkey has the right to announce the EEC in the region based on the deal with Libya and Turkey’s continental shelf right,” he said.
He confirmed that the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ publication of Turkey’s maritime borders on social media constitutes its unofficial declaration.
According to Gurdeniz, the deal shows that Turkey is not alone in the Mediterranean Sea but has also set an example for other neighboring countries, like Egypt, Israel and Syria to follow in signing comparable agreements for the benefit of all these coastal states.
Gurdeniz said that Turkey has reason to question the full authority of the Greek Cypriot Administration in determining maritime borders given that the Administration is not a sovereign state since the administration does not represent the entire island.
"Israel loses 6,000 square kilometers including the Aphrodite gas field in the current agreement with the Greek Cypriot Administration. Egypt loses 15,000 square kilometers if they draw their median line in accordance with the Greek islands, such as Crete, instead of mainland Greece.
"However, they [Greek Cypriot Administration] were able to draw median lines with Egypt although they have no such right in terms of international sea rights. In this case, Egypt will lose 12,000 square kilometers," he said.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island's Turks and Ankara's intervention as a guarantor power.
Gurdeniz anticipates although bilateral relations between Turkey and Egypt are less than perfect, that this will change in time when a new government is willing to make more rational decisions.
"The Eastern Mediterranean question holds vital importance as it is not only a matter of marine sovereignty rights but involves the future of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus and the foundation of a puppet Kurdish state in Syria that aims to reach the Mediterranean via Syria," he concluded.
By Talha Yavuz