With the seeming paradigm shift in the Cyprus Problem negotiations (in terms of the recent discussion about a “loose federation” or a two-state solution) creating a great debate within the two communities, what is clear is that the next months will be crucial. And the drilling of the American company Exxon Mobil in the maritime “block 10” of the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EZZ) will be a landmark.
Geopolitical Cyprus has been informed from multiple sources and understands based on its analysis that, regardless of progress (or lack thereof) in the Cyprus peace process, Turkey will directly dispute the Republic of Cyprus’s natural gas research program through drillings within zones of the Cypriot EEZ to the end of:
- sending messages to multiple recipients in the region regarding its goals, intentions and capabilities.
- rendering Cyprus’s hydrocarbons a bargaining chip in a potential resolution of the Cyprus Problem outside the Bizonal Bicommunal Federation (BBF) parameters – following the logic of co-exploitation as opposed to a model of settlement for the Cyprus Problem.
- strengthening the narrative about the blockade of the Turkish-Cypriots by the Republic of Cyprus in terms of the exploration and exploitation of Cypriot natural gas.
Turkey will start using the research ship “Fatih” (former DeepSea Metro II) late October starting from the Turkish coasts and the broader area of Alanya. Media reports have suggested that this process might take up to five months. Essentially the timeframe that Turkey is setting until March serves its agenda in many ways as it coincides with the completion of the Turkish local elections and developments in the Cyprus Problem regarding the negotiations and the results of the drilling in “block 10”.
Moreover, immediately after the drilling in “block 10” (or even sooner if there are important developments in the Cyprus Problem), Turkey could become more active in the Cypriot EEZ without harassing the Exxon Mobil drilling, and with the aim of drilling in “block 3” given the precedent that it created there with the blocking of the ENI drill-ship early in 2018 and the traditional argument that the area around “block 3” is part of the Turkish-Cypriot EEZ.
As Geopolitical Cyprus understands, a development like this will have important consequences in terms of where the Cyprus Problem is going, while a Turkish drilling in “block 3” would be an action that would:
- be very difficult for the Republic of Cyprus to deter with its available means (political, diplomatic, etc.)
- make way for the practical disputing of Cyprus’s entire EEZ and energy program by Turkey in the coming years through the expansion of Turkish drillings in the whole of the EEZ, apart from blocks 10 and 12.
By the Geopolitical Cyprus team