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Turkey key to Cyprus gas development

Turkish deputy energy minister believes East Mediterranean gas finds will help forge closer bonds

Cyprus can only develop its natural gas fields in conjunction with Turkey, according to the Turkish deputy energy minister.

Gas discovered off the south coast of Cyprus can only be properly exploited if it is piped to Turkey, Murat Mercan told WEC Congress News in an interview.

Cyprus’s Aphrodite gasfield lies about 40 km west of Israel’s Leviathan gasfield. Noble Energy, which operates Leviathan, recently entered into a production-sharing agreement with the Cypriot government and there have been reports that Noble has started exploration drilling.

Turkey has threatened to mobilise its navy if Cyprus allows drilling to begin. The UK also has a claim to the field because of its sovereignty over the Akrotiri air base, in Cyprus. The base is adjacent to the gasfield.

Mercan, who is also the chairman of the organising committee of the World Energy Congress in Instabul in 2016, said the East Mediterranean basin hosts considerable gas reserves. “We  believe that energy creates interdependence. If used for the benefit for all people, it improves bonds between countries. I personally hope there will be rapprochement with Greek Cypriots,” he said. “We will be able to exploit these reserves for the benefit of the people. But this can only be feasible if the gas is piped to Turkey and then onto the international markets.”

He said a liquefied natural gas (LNG) development solution may not be feasible for gas in the Eastern Mediterranean because of the nature of the reserves. “Turkey can only be the main hub,” he said. Much of Mercan’s trip to Daegu has been devoted to preparations for the Istanbul congress. “Daegu has been a great experience for us,” he said. “We have been talking to them since Istanbul won its bid,”

Mercan added: “It’s too early to say what will be different (at Istanbul). We hope it will be bigger because everything has to be better than the one before.” The congress will be another opportunity to highlight Turkey’s role as a host to transnational pipelines and energy producer. “Every year we need $14 billion of investment for additional capacity, renovation, rehabilitation of existing capacity. Energy is a key element in the economy so we’ll try to attract much more investment,” said Mercan.

Turkey is also competing to host the 2017 World Petroleum Conference. However, Turkey’s pursuit of international platforms is not a sign of its disillusionment with the European Union which has moved slowly in its negotiations with Turkey over Turkey’s interest in becoming a member. “Our policy is to integrate fully into every international quarter. Efforts in one direction do not negate efforts in other areas,” he said.

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