Turkey Plans Oil, Gas Exploration in Eastern Med

ANKARA Feb.13, 2007 (AP)

Turkey will start oil and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, the energy minister said, according to a TV station, weeks after Cyprus announced similar plans in deals with Egypt and Lebanon.

Turkey had warned Cyprus not to search for oil and gas in the area, where it said it also has legal rights and interests. Turkey also insisted that Turkish Cypriots should have a say in the island's oil and gas rights.

Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos ignored the warnings, and in remarks published Sunday said the exploration deals with Egypt and Lebanon would go ahead.

Turkey's Energy Minister Hilmi Guler said Monday during an interview with NTV that Turkey would also seek oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean, while trying "to ensure the research areas do not overlap," according to the broadcaster.

The ministry confirmed that Guler was interviewed by NTV, but didn't elaborate.

Guler said Turkey has exploration licenses for area, NTV said. Local newspapers recently reported that Turkey obtained the licenses from the Turkish Cypriot administration, which is recognized only by Turkey.

Cyprus signed a deal with Lebanon last month to mark out their undersea border to facilitate future oil and gas exploration. It signed a similar deal with Egypt last year and agreed to jointly exploit potential oil and gas fields.

Papadopoulos said Cyprus wouldn't surrender its sovereign rights or "bow to threats."

Bidding will begin Feb. 15 for offshore exploration licenses, Papadopoulos said. Evaluation of applications will take place over the next six months.

The first round of licensing involves 11 offshore blocks totaling around 60,000 square kilometers (23,000 square miles).

Turkey doesn't recognize the Greek Cypriot government in the island's south. The island has been divided since Turkey's invasion in 1974, triggered by a Greek Cypriot coup attempt by supporters of union with Greece.

Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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