Tensions in the East Med region rose in May due to a deepening dispute between Turkey and Cyprus over offshore oil and gas exploration rights, with the U.S. and Europe rallying in defense of Cyprus.
U.S.-based oil giant Exxon and French company Total are involved in exploiting Cyprus’s hydrocarbons, with the latter company also participating in a consortium for offshore drilling in Lebanon.
Turkey has long rejected Cypriot oil and gas exploration, saying it would violate the rights of Turkish Cyprus, a breakaway nation recognized only by Turkey.
In its latest effort to assert its claims to oil and gas exploration, Turkey sent surveying vessels to explore for hydrocarbons inside the internationally recognized Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone, accompanied by warships.
In a sign of escalating tensions, Bloomberg reported that Turkey is considering deploying Russian missile defense systems along the country's southern coast where its naval vessels are accompanying survey ships to explore for oil and gas.
This came after Cyprus and France signed an agreement increasing military cooperation, that will allow France to use a naval dock on Cyprus, and would upgrade a Cypriot naval base so that it can host large military vessels.
Meanwhile a Senior U.S. lawmaker said that the U.S was looking to work with Israel and Cyprus in the eastern mediterranean to push back against Russian influence over energy reserves in the region. Russia has notably expanded its participation in Syrian and Lebanese oil and gas projects in recent years, with Russian companies securing a contract to run Lebanese oil and gas installations for 20 years, and their participation in a consortium that is set to begin exploratory drilling off Lebanon’s coast later this year.
Elliot Engel, who Chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that he was “excited about the prospect of our ally Israel working with Cyprus.”
Shortly before making those comments in Cyprus, Engel was in Lebanon, where he met with the country’s top leaders and held discussions that touched on oil and gas, including ongoing U.S.-led talks on the southern maritime border dispute with Israel.
Photo source: Irish Times