Energy Wars in the Eastern Mediterranean

01 December 2014 - 06:35

Oil, one of the world’s most important resources, met 33.1% of the world’s energy demand in 2013, while natural gas met 23.9% in the same year. 

As of January 2013, world oil reserves were 1668.9 billion barrels (235.8 billion tons), showing an increase of 0.8% compared to 2012, and natural gas reserves in the world in 2012 was 187.3 trillion m3. 

In 2012, world oil reserves were estimated to last for approximately 53 years, while the world’s natural gas reserves are estimated to last for about 56 years. (World Energy Council Turkish National Committee of Energy Report 2013). 

According to the International Energy Agency, world oil demand was 91.13 million barrels per day in 2013, while world oil supplies were 91.5 million barrels per day (EMRA Petroleum Market Sector Report 2013). According to the International Energy Agency report in 2013, the world’s demand for natural gas increased by 1.2% compared to the previous year when it was 3.5 trillion m3. Natural gas demand is projected to increase annually by 2.2% for the next 5 years. World gas supply is expected to reach 4 trillion m3 until 2019. 

Parallel to increasing industrialization, the oil and natural gas consumption has also increased since the second half of the 20th century. World energy demand is projected to increase by 38% by 2030. As the natural energy resources in the world run out, the world is seeking for new sources of energy.

The Eastern Mediterranean Basin, surrounded by Turkey, Greece, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, England (Akrotiri and Dhekelia bases), Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and Greek Cypriot Administration (GASC) has great geopolitical and geostrategic importance due to the high potential of energy resources as well as being coastal neighbours in the world’s hottest region - the Middle East and also military, commercial, transportation resources and complex geo-politics. 

The Eastern Mediterranean natural gas reserves in the region between Israel Greece, Turkey and Cyprus is estimated to be over 15 trillion cubic feet, the monetary equivalent of this figure is expected to exceed $ 7 trillion. (Akçadağ, G., 

According to estimates of the US Geological Survey Authority;  oil equivalent of 30 billion barrels of hydrocarbon deposits with an approximate total value of $ 1.5 trillion lies in the Eastern Mediterranean in the area called Leviathan between Cyprus and Israel, in the area called Nile between Cyprus and Egypt, and in the area named Herodotus in Crete’s southeast. (Tanrısever, F., Külfetoğlu, M. “Can East Mediterranean Energy Change Global Balance of Power?” 

Ongoing survey activities in many areas and possible increase in the declared reserves by new discoveries will turn the eastern Mediterranean basin into an exceptional geopolitical region and cause a struggle for the sharing of this high potential energy sources.

In recent years, Mediterranean countries have been actively declaring Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in the region in order to share the energy resources and the sea. 

The exclusive economic zones are regulated as per Section V/Article 55-75 of the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS). 

According to the UNCLOS Article 55, the exclusive economic zone is an area beyond and superjacent to the territorial sea of a Coastal State which extends to no more than 200 nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline and in which the Coastal State has sovereign economic rights and duties of the waters adjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil (Pazarcı, H., International Law Courses, 1993; Koran, S. “The International Law of the Sea”, 2009). 

The main right and duties  of the coastal State in the exclusive economic zone are (a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds; (b) jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures; marine scientific research; the protection and preservation of the marine environment; c) other rights and duties provided for in the Convention.

UNCLOS recognizes some rights for the third States over the said sea area and rights and jurisdiction of the coastal State and the rights and freedoms of other States are governed by the relevant provisions of the Convention. 

However, in exercising its rights and performing its duties under this Convention in the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State shall have due regard to the rights and duties of other States and shall act in a manner compatible with the provisions of this Convention and shall comply with the law and regulations that the Coastal State accepted in accordance with this Convention and other international law. 

Although it was pointed out in UNCLOS that States, when using their rights and obligations in the exclusive economic zone, shall have due regard to the rights and duties of Coastal States; States in the region define the boundaries of their Exclusive Economic Zones without due regard to the rights of the third States. (Dogan, N., “Energy Strategies in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Future of Regional Security, 21st Century Institute of Turkey, 2014).

Turkey did not become a party to UNCLOS due to the width of her territorial waters and Aegean disputes such as the islands issue.

According to UNCLOS, in order to have an exclusive economic zone, it is not necessary for a coastal state to become a party to the convention; a declaration is sufficient. 

Therefore, with her three sides surrounded by seas and having the longest coastline in the Mediterranean sea; Turkey has the right to declare an exclusive economic zone. 

Pursuant thereto, Turkey  declared a 200-mile exclusive economic zone in the Black Sea with a Council of Ministers Decree No. 86/11264 dated 05.12.1986. 

Turkey did not declare any exclusive economic zone in the Aegean or the Mediterranean. 

According to the Territorial Waters Law No. 476, the width of the Turkish territorial waters is 6 miles in the Aegean Sea, and 12 miles in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

There is no regulation in UNCLOS regarding the exclusive economic zone that can not be declared unilaterally. 

As the Eastern Mediterranean is narrow in the physical structure and because of the problem of overlapping boundaries of the countries in this region, states in this region prefer to enter into bilateral treaties or declare exclusive economic zone unilaterally instead of signing agreements with all littoral states. 

In this context, the Greek Cypriot Administration (GASC) officially declared an exclusive economic zone on April 2, 2004. 

On 17 February 2003, GASC signed an agreement with Egypt to share the sea area for delimitation of exclusive economic zone in the Eastern Mediterranean and had it adopted in the UN in 2004. 

In this agreement, boundaries of the exclusive economic zone between the two countries have been identified based on an equidistant line between the African coast and the island of Cyprus (median line principle). 

In early 2006, GASC had started a study to identify all underground reserves in the sea extending from Egypt to the south of Cyprus. 

GASC, in the same time, opened a tender to grant a license for the area in which TRNC also had sovereign rights. 

The total sea area in question is larger than the island of Cyprus. 

GASC also signed an agreement with Lebanon on the limitation of the exclusive economic zone based on the median line principle on January 17, 2007. 

GASC, after the signing of the mentioned agreement, on 26 January 2007, declared 13 oil exploration license areas in the South of Cyprus Island within the boundaries delimitated with Egypt and Lebanon and opened these areas for tender by inviting international oil companies for exploration. (Özkan, A. “Dispute on the limitation of exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean, 2nd Regional Problems and Turkey Symposium, 2012). 

Of the declared areas, the right to explore Area 12 was bought by the US company Noble Energy.

The total area of the 13 license areas declared by the GASC is 70,000 km². 

Of these, parcels numbered with 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 overlap with 7000 km² of Turkey’s  continental shelf area in the Eastern Mediterranean held by Note dated  2nd March 2004 and numbered 2004 / Turkuno DT4739 (Başeren, SH, Tension in Eastern Mediterranean., 

GASC signed an exclusive economic zone delimitation agreement according to the median line principle with Israel in Nicosia on 17 December 2010.

GASC delimitation of EEZ boundaries based on median lines is not equitable. 

Greece is trying to delimitate exclusive economic zones with Egypt and Libya in accordance with the median line principle based on a line which joins Crete, Kasota, Karpathos, Meis and Rhodes islands.  (Başeren, S.H). 

Greece has begun talks with Egypt and Libya and continues working on delimitation agreements with GASC. 

Egypt began oil exploration works in Sea Areas in the Eastern Mediterranean in 1997 whereas Lebanon began the same in 2013. 

After the talks held between GASC and Syria in 2001, signing of an agreement on the delimitation of continental shelf and exclusive economic zones between the two countries have been raised, but the signing of the said agreement has not been realized so far. (Özkan, A., 2012). 

The parcel number 9 within the exclusive economic zone of GASC in which drilling operations started in 2014, conflicts with the license area that has been given to TPAO (Turkish Petroleum Corporation) by TRNC and this issue negatively affects the Cyprus negotiations. 

Turkey declares her own license areas and some of these areas coincide with the license areas declared by the GASC (Yıldızel, ZA, is, 2014). 

Turkey declared that GASC alone is not the authority to make agreements on behalf of the whole of Cyprus and that the continental shelf/exclusive economic zone delimitation agreements were invalid for TRNC and Turkey sees such attempts as violation of international law. 

Turkey proposes that there are also rights for Turkish Cypriots in the sea areas of Cyprus Island and GASC does not represent the whole island and therefore it would not be right to operate these areas without determining the final status. 

Turkey has not declared any exclusive economic zones and has not made any statement in this regard to the United Nations but however, she has not been unresponsive to the developments in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey has been publishing note, sending research ships to these areas and so on.

The width of TRNC’s territorial waters is 12 miles. 

There is a Law on the Maritime Jurisdiction Areas which says that the seabed soil and underwater areas beyond the territorial waters extend to the outer limits of the continental margin or margin of the outer limits of 200 miles extending up to 200 miles as continental shelf. 

Turkey has signed the Continental Shelf Delimitation Agreement with TRNC on September 21, 2011, and on November 2, 2011, “Oilfield Services Production Sharing Contract” was signed between the Ministry of Energy and Economy of TRNC and TPAO.

Accordingly, the TRNC Council of Ministers gave the oil and gas exploration license to TPAO in the sea area around the Island on 22nd September 2011. 

Works carried out in the areas of the Mediterranean within the scope of Oilfield Services and Production Sharing Agreement such as drilling operations on the Famagusta Türkyurdu-1 well has been completed. 

TPAO, with the seismic research vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha which has state of the art equipment, conducted seismic data acquisition work in the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus (Famagusta).

 Also, on November 23, 2011, a joint operating agreement was signed between TPAO and Shell Upstream Turkey regarding exploration licenses in offshore areas of Antalya in the Mediterranean. 

Throughout the year 2012, works has been carried out in the deep sea areas of Gulf of Antalya within the scope of the joint exploration and production agreement. 

Seismic research vessel Barbaros Hayreddin Pasha started working under the naval escort of 3 warships at the 3rd parcel that overlaps with Turkish parcels in which GASC drilling also has started.

It is inevitable that disagreement on the delimitation of jurisdiction of sea areas in the eastern Mediterranean Sea will create more and more problems. 

The delimitation in the eastern Mediterranean needs to be done on an equitable basis as outlined in UNCLOS. 

No economic zone limitation agreement can gain international status without the approval of Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey, apart from signing a Continental Shelf Delimitation Agreement with TRNC, has not yet signed a treaty with any other states on the delimitation of jurisdiction of sea areas in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and has not declared any exclusive economic zones. 

Turkey, however, has been declaring on several occasions and continues to declare that she holds exclusive legitimate rights and interests arising from international law at the sea areas in the exclusive economic zone and that this area is her own maritime jurisdiction area.

Littoral states in the Economic Zone, by means of the EEC delimitation agreements and by the use of the various laws, could bring restrictions on the military reconnaissance, information gathering, hydrographical measurement, scientific research, trade and transport activities of other states. 

Turkey’s National Security Council (NSC), at a meeting held on October 30, 2014, reviewed the developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and noted that in order to protect the rights and interests, all necessary measures would be taken by Turkey as the guarantor country in her own continental shelf and in the areas where TRNC has been granted licences. 

Turkey, in order to protect national and other economic interests in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas where rich oil and gas sources exist adjacent to Turkish territorial waters, should immediately declare Exclusive Economic Zones in the Mediterranean and in Aegean Seas and sign economic zone agreements with the riparian states. 

Author is of the opinion that in order to declare Exclusive Economic Zones in the Mediterranean and in the Aegean, a domestic legislation about this matter should be added to the Territorial Waters Act. 

In this context, the decree dated December 5, 1986 with number 86-11264 declaring Turkish Exclusive Economic Zone in the Black Sea should be similarly enacted for the Mediterranean and the Aegean Seas as well. This will delimitate the Exclusive Economic Zone of Turkey in the East Mediterranean and put forward the charts showing the sea area in its jurisdiction. 

Furthermore, considering the conflict for energy sources in the East Mediterranean will escalate in the coming days and due to strategic reasons arising from geopolitics, increasing the TPAO’s competitiveness in the face of international companies and the protection of Turkey’s interests through TPAO is of great importance. 

East Mediterranean is an important energy corridor and sea trade route. In order to protect our energy security, food security with regard to fish resources and to ensure the sustainability of our maritime trade in these waters, we need to set up our maritime and maritime research policies and prepare action plans and create new projects and strategies. 

Turkey has taken positive steps to declare its exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean Sea. 

However, the Author is of the opinion that, to delimitation of the continental shelf and exclusive economic zone should be solved with a multilateral treaty  among littoral states Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Greece , England, Palestine, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus (GASC).

According to UNCLOS, other states have the freedom to use their rights in an exclusive economic zone which is not under the sovereignty of any coastal state. 

However, any State when using the exclusive economic zone and signing agreements in relation, should notify other States that are beneficiaries of  the same zone, get permission, not narrow the jurisdiction of other states, not violate the reserved rights of States at the continental shelf in the Exclusive Economic Zone and not violate the rights of States and the people. 

The international sea beds and resources were declared as “Common Heritage of Mankind” by UN General Assembly and should be shared equitably among states. As stated in UNCLOS, while States practise their rights and fulfil their obligations in exclusive economic zones, it is essential to act in equitable principles and obligations and not violate the rights and obligations of littoral states. 

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