Offshore Seismic survey will go ahead in Cyprus, but drilling is different

THE US does not expect Turkey to create any problems for the ExxonMobil ships carrying out surveys of the sea-bed in block 10 of Cyprus’ EEZ, said the US ambassador in Nicosia Kathleen Doherty on Wednesday. This would have come as good news to the Cyprus government after the events of last month when Turkish warships prevented any exploratory drilling from taking place in ENI’s block 3 by stopping the drillship, Saipem 12000, from going there.

This created the impression that the Republic’s energy plans were at the mercy of Turkey, as the diplomatic efforts by the Cyprus government secured nothing more than some lukewarm statements about respect for sovereign rights. The Saipem 12000, after staying at the same place in the eastern Mediterranean for a couple of weeks, eventually headed off for its next assignment in Morocco. The fear was that the host country’s failure to provide security for a drillship would make an oil company reluctant to carry out exploratory work in the Cypriot EEZ in the future.

For now, the government could claim to have banished such fears, even though it would not be an accurate evaluation of the situation. The ExxonMobil ships will not be carrying out any exploratory drilling, just a survey, a point made by Doherty during her news conference more than once. This was an indirect way of explaining why the US did not expect Turkey to create a problem. The ambassador made a point of distinguishing between surveying and exploratory drilling which was not scheduled, he said, until the last quarter of the year.

By then she hoped there would be a settlement that “would greatly facilitate the development of the resources and would help ensure they benefit all Cypriots”. She also repeated the mantra of the international community, including the UNSG, that the US supported the Republic’s “right to develop its resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone”. At the same time, “we have noted that we believe the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement.”

This was also a subtle answer to the Greek Cypriot politicians and commentators that have argued Turkey would not try to stop exploratory drilling by a giant US company like ExxonMobil. It will not stop it surveying the sea-bed, but this, as Doherty pointed out, was different from exploratory drilling. We suspect the government has noted this but is unlikely to dwell on it publicly.

For now, it is content that the surveying will go ahead as planned and worry about the exploratory drilling when we arrive at the last quarter of the year.

Source: Cyprus Mail