Gas discoveries in the eastern mediterranean – the “third corridor”?

Gas discoveries off Cyprus and in the Aegean Sea and the strained Turkish-Greek relations

Maritime borders are a complicated matter. Especially for the riparians of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. For a long time, Greece refrained from establishing an exclusive economic zone (200-mile zone) and thus from extending its maritime borders over the entire Aegean Sea. The EU state of Cyprus also refrained from such a step for a long time. For both states it was clear that shifting their own borders close to the Turkic coast could only provoke their neighbors.

However, gas discoveries off Cyprus and suspected gas deposits in the Aegean Sea, combined with the strained financial situation of the two states, are now giving new fuel to a long unsolved border dispute. Because, as it seems, in this part of the Mediterranean Sea could be stored considerable deposits of raw materials.

"A year from now, Greece will have a completely different energy market with more players than before", said the Greek Minister of Environment and Energy, Giorgos Papaconstantinou, at a conference at the end of March: "Greece, Cyprus and Israel will completely reshape the European energy map."

Gas discoveries in the eastern mediterranean - the'dritte korridor'?

The announcement of the Greek minister may sound far-fetched at first sight. On closer inspection, however, it becomes apparent that there could well be something to it. After all, the three countries have recently signed a memorandum that is supposed to create the basis for jointly exploiting the gas deposits off Cyprus and Israel and exporting them to the EU.

The Israeli Minister of Energy and Water, Uzi Landau, also sees new and better times ahead for the three countries as a result of this agreement. Thus, at the same conference, he said that cooperation would be a "an important anchor for stability in the" in the region.

As early as the beginning of December last year, the Cypriot president appeared before the press and announced that the U.S. company Noble Energy was carrying out test drilling in a gas field off the Mediterranean island and that between 140 and 230 trillion cubic meters of gas were suspected there. The field is located about 185 kilometers off the coast of Cyprus and is in the direct vicinity of an Israeli gas field. Rough deposits are also suspected there. In all likelihood, up to 480 million cubic meters of natural gas will be stored there beneath the ground. It is therefore not without reason that Cyprus and Israel concluded an agreement in the Cypriot capital Nicosia back in December, defining the exact maritime borders of the two states.

The goal of Greece, Cyprus and Israel in their efforts is to gain access to the lucrative European energy market. Papaconstantinou recently told the press:

We are not only talking about Russian and Azerbaijani natural gas now. In the coming months and years, we will already be talking about a third corridor.

In the middle of March, the companies VTT Vasiliko Ltd. and JP Group signed a contract to build an oil loading and storage facility on the southern coast of Cyprus. The investment amounts to 220 million euros and the terminal is expected to be operational as early as 2014. After its completion, it is expected to have a capacity of 643.000 cubic meters. The Managing Director of VTT Vasiliko said in this regard to the press:

This is an investment of huge importance that will make Cyprus a transit center of energy products.

Uzi Landau, the Israeli energy minister, is also considering a delivery to Europe "most natural choice" and thus Cyprus will be the hub for the sale of Israeli gas to Europe.

Crete

But it is not only in Cyprus that a real gas frenzy has broken out. The Greek island of Crete, located in the southern part of the Mediterranean Sea, is also believed to have large reserves of gas. A study by the Cretan consultancy Pytheas, for example, suggests that there could be coarse natural gas deposits in the area off the south coast of Crete. Geological and geochemical studies had repeatedly provided clear indications that.

The Greek government, which is still in office, does not seem to want to exclude such deposits. Earlier this year, it held a competition for the acquisition of licenses for test drilling off the coast of western Greece and the coast of Crete. As the Greek government informed the press at the beginning of March this year, eight foreign companies have participated in the project.

including the Norwegian company TGS Nopec Geophysical PGS, the UK-based Dolphin Geophysical Spec Partners, the French CGGVERITAS Spec Partners, CGGVERITAS of France, ION Geophysical Corporation of the United States, Spectrum Geo Ltd Spectrum Geo Ltd. and the German owned Fugro Multiclient Services. Rumor has it that in the near future drilling will also be carried out in the Nordagais, close to the Turkish border.

Turkey demands the right to a 200-mile zone

For Turkey this development represents a considerable problem. Although the country has a long coastline in the eastern Mediterranean, it is a. However, due to the Greek islands in front of it, it is very difficult for it to claim its own 200-mile zone and therefore has no access to the suspected gas deposits.

Therefore, already in September 2011, the Turkish side consequently demanded that Turkey be considered as a "Littoral state with the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea" The right to a 200-mile zone, the concrete limits of which are to be negotiated with the other littoral states. But so far there was simply no one to negotiate with. The long conflict between Greece and the Greek part of Cyprus on the one hand, and Turkey on the other, seems to be coming to a head. In this context, the new connection between Greece and Israel will not ease tensions.

Although Turkey has increasingly distanced itself from Israel in recent years, a reorientation of Israel toward Greece will easily cause disgruntlement and irritation in Turkey. For Turkey, therefore, the question arises more clearly as to who is actually still on the side of the country when it comes to such relevant ies. The shift of maritime borders in the Eastern Mediterranean has begun, but so far without Turkey. It remains to be seen whether Ankara will simply resign itself to this.

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