Russian oil companies are contemplating offshore exploration in the Mediterranean in cooperation with Turkey, according to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak who spoke on Friday with the Turkish state news agency Anadolu.
“Russian companies have successfully implemented energy projects in the Mediterranean Sea,” Novak said, citing Rosneft which is working at Egypt’s Zohr gas field. “If these projects benefit all the parties from the commercial point of view, Russian companies can decide on cooperation with Turkey in the East Mediterranean,” Novak added.
Since 2009, offshore oil and gas fields in the Mediterranean have been the subject of territorial disputes between Turkey on one side and Greece, Cyprus and Israel on the other.
Last Thursday, the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) assembled in Cairo for discussions that included Israel, Italy, Greece, Egypt, the Greek Cypriot government (GCASC), the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan. US Energy Minister Rick Perry, EU Commission Energy Director Dominique Ristori and representatives from France and the World Bank also attended the meeting.
You’ll notice that neither Turkey, nor Russia were present.
An Egyptian press release announcing the formation of the forum suggested “the main objective of the forum, which will include Egypt, GCASC, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan and Palestine, is the establishment of a regional gas market that will serve the interests of the member countries.”
And not, mind you, Turkey or Russia.
Foreign Policy reported last week that over the past two months, Turkey has dispatched several drilling and exploration ships into the waters around Cyprus, searching for gas discoveries of its own in areas that are claimed by the Greek Cypriots. And just to make a point, the drill ships were escorted by a menacing flotilla of Turkish naval vessels, submarines, drones, and patrol craft – all of which was dubbed “illegal” by the stunned Greek government of much of Cyprus.
Back on July 20, 1974, the Turkish military invaded the island country of Cyprus in what it called, undoubtedly using oodles of that famous Turkish sense of humor, the “Cyprus peace operation,” code-named, more honestly, “Operation Atilla.”
As of the 1980s, the island has been divided into the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and the rest of it, GCASC. This arrangement is not recognized by anyone other than Turkey – something of which Israel should remind the world when the Turkish government picks up that familiar “occupation” talk.
Foreign Policy suggested that “Turkey’s aggressive behavior, which comes as the country is in a worsening showdown with NATO ally the United States over its purchase of Russian weapons, is hardly new. It’s the culmination of more than five years of steadily increasing harassment of companies and ships carrying out energy exploration around Cyprus, which first discovered a sizable natural gas field off its southern coast almost a decade ago and has been trying to make it pay ever since.”