North Cyprus | There’s Gas in Them There Hills?

Turkey has begun drilling for natural gas in North Cyprus and, to quote United Press International, “technically, that means the Turks are drilling illegally”.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said that the onshore well operated by the state-run Turkish Petroleum Corporation has “strategic significance and we attribute great importance to it.”

Economic cooperation between Israel and Cyprus is replacing the alliance between Israel and Turkey which broke apart in May 2010. In February, Israel signed a military cooperation pact with the Greek Cypriots which allows Israeli ships and aircraft to use Cypriot territorial waters and airspace. The south obviously hopes  Israel will deploy its F-16s as a response to the squadron of F-16s Turkey has stationed in the TRNC. These would only be a part of Israeli plans to defend their offshore fields against terrorist or missile attacks.

The main danger currently is Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed movement in Lebanon which claims that the Leviathan field overlaps into 330 square miles of Lebanese waters. The Lebanese are preparing to launch their own exploration into these waters. Hezbollah says it won’t allow the Israelis to take Lebanese resources.

Israel also recently took part in naval exercises in the area with U.S. and Greek warships and this included protecting offshore gas platforms. Turkey was excluded as they were when the Israeli air force held several joint manoeuvres with the Greeks.

If Turkey were to find gas beneath the surface of North Cyprus, what then? Or is just finding it enough in the tit-for-tat power struggle in the area?


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