Greek Cypriot officials and representatives of Turkish Cyprus all agree
on the reality that natural gas produced in the eastern Mediterranean
will get its utmost feasibility by a pipeline passing through Turkey,
Energy Minister Taner Yıldız tells the Daily News
Energy-hungry Turkey has offered to cooperate with its oil and gas-rich
southern neighbors for the exploration and transportation of their
hydrocarbon products to world markets via Turkey. It has particularly
called out to Israel
and Cyprus, which recently had problems over the legality of the
licenses issued for petroleum exploration in the eastern Mediterranean. “Israeli officials, local officials in Greek
Cyprus and representatives of the TRNC [Turkish Republic of the
Northern Cyprus], they have all agreed on one reality: The natural gas
to be produced from this region will get its utmost feasibility by a
pipeline that will pass through Turkey. All relevant figures prove this
idea,” Energy Minister Taner Yıldız told the Hürriyet Daily News
in a comprehensive interview outlining the Turkish government’s energy
policies regarding oil and gas reserves of its southern neighbors.
held substantial meetings with acting Secretary of Energy Daniel
Poneman and U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy for energy
issues Carlos Pascual last week in Washington. The meetings were
crucially important as the two allies found themselves on opposite sides
on a number of issues related to Baghdad-Ankara tension over the
latter’s growing interest in making deals with the Kurdistan Regional
Government and to the Turkey-Cyprus quarrel over the Greek Cypriot government’s ambitious moves for oil exploration in the disputed areas of the Mediterranean. Although
Yıldız underlines that Turkey appears to be the best route for these
countries to flow their products to world markets, he is doing his best
to show that Turkey is not in a position to abuse its geographical
advantage in its potential talks with its neighbors.
does not say ‘Well, you are obliged to pass through our territories, so
let’s talk over this.’ It adopts a very realistic approach,” he said.
“Instead,” Yıldız continued, “Turkey says it’s open to any sort of
projects with the accomplishment of political stability in the region.” Opportunity is there: Cypriot reserves
political stability the energy minister referred to concerns the
decades-old Cyprus problem which could not be solved despite numerous
mediation efforts by the United Nations. There are floating ideas that
recently discovered oil and gas reserves off the island could set an
opportunity for Turkish and Greek Cypriots to resolve their differences and agree on a peace plan.
“I agree that opportunity is there. But this should have legality,” Yıldız said, adding that the current status of the Greek
Cypriot oil explorations in the Mediterranean was illegal as there was
no deal among the countries who have coastlines on the definition of
economic exclusive zones. “When will they become legal? As put
by our prime minister, they won’t become legal until these reserves are
shared by the entire island. Will works be legal when [reserves are]
‘US confirms Turkey’s rightfulness’
involvement of foreign energy companies from many western countries
including the United States makes the situation a little more
complicated as Turkey said it would not allow those companies operating
on the island to do business in its territories.
Yıldız said he made clear to his American counterparts the Turkish position regarding Greek
Cyprus’s operations and underlined that “We have seen that not only our
correctness but also our rightfulness is being confirmed [by the
Iraqi model for Cyprus
For Yıldız, the
position Turkey has adopted in Cyprus’s energy bid is not very different
from his stance with regard to northern Iraqi reserves.
reasonableness and consistency of what we are saying about Iraq [with
regard its oil and gas reserves] should also be valid for Cyprus. Or
vice versa. These two issues are mutually supportive,” he said.
A growing political stalemate between Ankara and Baghdad under the leadership of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
had implications for Turkish companies operating in southern Iraq that
pushed Turkey to seek more substantial energy deals with the KRG.
a protocol and an agreement are different things. Agreements are
inter-governmental,” Yıldız explained while clarifying a recent deal
between a Turkish state company and the U.S. giant Exxon for exploring
oil in northern Iraq.
“The idea that state companies cannot make
commercial contracts is wrong. They can make them,” he said. Pointing
out that 39 companies from 19 different countries had already made
similar deals and although central Iraqi government did not recognize
them it started to receive 83 percent of revenues out of these projects
as a result of their revenue sharing agreement with the KRG, Yıldız said
that, “This means an indirect recognition of these commercial
Ready to talk with Baghdad
Giving some clues as to how he introduced the situation in Iraq to his American counterparts, Yıldız preferred to use the concept of normalization in Iraq that would help to resolve all standing problems. “What’s the goal of Iraq? Increasing its current 2.7 million barrels per day oil production to 7 million.
is very good. You have oil and gas and you want to use them for your
needs. But you cannot. This is abnormal,” he said. The normal thing was
to use them and to transport them to world markets, he stressed, adding
Turkey was ready to contribute to them. “What’s wrong with that?” asked
Washington’s concern was that Turkey’s interest in
northern Iraq would cause the division of Iraq, according to Yıldız.
“What we have told them is this: On the contrary, Iraq would be divided
if we do not show this interest. Iraq would not get divided as long as
it becomes normalized. It would be divided if it would become abnormal.
We are creating formulas for the normalization of Iraq.”
Yıldız, an Iraq which would increase its annual revenues up to $300
billion, three times more than current figures, and which would share it
accordingly, would not face the risk of partition. Yıldız said turkey was ready to discuss these issues with Iraq whenever they requested.
Turkey’s interest will not go
to him, Washington well understood Turkey’s position. “They [Americans]
have realized that there is nothing abnormal about the point we have
arrived at [in the northern Iraq]. What we are discussing [with the U.S]
now is legality [of Turkey’s deals] and not their rightness. What we
are doing in Iraq is the right thing from the perspective of
international relations and of neighborhood. I must confess that the
problem of legality will be resolved only after the hydrocarbon law is
passed in Iraq.”
Turkey’s interest in doing business in Iraq will not
fade away he said, recalling that Turkey’s daily oil consumption was
around 750,000 barrels, much higher than that of 22 European Union
countries. “I am sorry but if Turkey goes 8,000 kilometers away, to
Colombia, to explore oil it will not hesitate to go to 200 kilometer
away,” he said. Israel: Political feasibility needed
When it comes to cooperating with Israel
on its energy projects, Yıldız drew attention to the fact that first
there was a need for political feasibility to talk about these projects’
technical feasibility. The minister recalled that there were signs of
this political feasibility after Israel
apologized to Turkey but he wanted to underline that these projects
could never be presented as the reasons for this apology. “They may well
be the consequences of this apology,” he stressed.