There are a lot of global activities in Turkey after President Recept Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week. Earlier this week, the nation announced a new initiative to fund a Turkish ship to drill gas along the eastern part of the Mediterranean.
The floating drilling rig Abdulhamid Han is headed to the Yörükler-1 site, 34.2 miles away from the central Turkish coast. Erdogan attended the press covering the mission of the ship.
Cumhurbaşkanımız Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ve beraberindeki heyet, Taşucu Limanı'nda Türkiye'nin hidrokarbon arama çalışmalarına katılacak Abdülhamid Han Sondaj Gemisi'nde yetkililerden bilgi aldı. pic.twitter.com/KwJjH8TBRm
— AK Parti (@Akparti) August 9, 2022
“The survey and drilling work we are conducting in the Mediterranean are within our sovereign territory.” Erdogan said.
He added that this new initiative will be the “symbol of Turkey’s new vision in the area of energy.”
“The sooner we can increase our natural gas and oil resources, which have turned into weapons in the global economic crisis, the more advantage we will gain in this critical process. It will help us both reduce our energy dependency and close our current account deficit.”
Abdulhamid Han (also called Cobalt Explorer) is a seventh-generation ultra-deepwater drillship owned by the Turkish Petroleum corporation. In 2013, US oil company Vantage Drilling International prepaid $59.5 million for the ship’s creation, which was later built in Okpo, Geoje, South Korea by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME). In 2019, she was acquired by Northern Drilling (a Norwegian company) for only $350 million, but the deal was canceled due to a “breach of contract.” Then in 2021, the Turkish state-owned company Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) bought the ship, and she finally departed Okpo Port last March. She was repainted with red and white, representing the Turkish Flag.
As the Ukraine-Russia war continues, the EU is looking for more innovative ways to replace their gas deficiency. But, with Turkey’s potential expansion in the gas industry, the EU is potentially looking for a more stable partnership with Erdogan.
A couple of days ago, the EU launched a $220 billion plan to replace Russian energy dependency. Brussels announced its intention to spend up to 314 billion euros so it could end its reliance on Russian gas by 2030.
“We are taking our ambition to yet another level to make sure that we become independent from Russian fossil fuels as quickly as possible,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday in Brussels when announcing the package, dubbed REPowerEU.
At present, Russia is supplying about 40 percent of EU’s gas and accounts for 27 percent of oil imports.
As the war continues, the EU has implemented a sanction on Russian coal, banning the bloc from any purchase starting this August.
“RePowerEU will help us to save more energy, to accelerate the phasing out of fossil fuels and, most importantly, to kick-start investments on a new scale,” von der Leyen said.
The Commission will reportedly invest in fossil fuel infrastructure, liquefied natural gas projects, and alternative energies.
Cyprus Energy Minister Natasa Pilides also said they’re focusing more on finding new sources of gas to minimize (and ultimately end) reliance on Russian gas. And with Turkey they’re also looking to be an alternative provider.
“Europe is a good potential customer for Cypriot gas,” Pilides told Bloomberg. “The EU has confirmed that natural gas will remain a bridge fuel up to 2049 as part of the green transition so companies now have the comfort of being able to secure long-term contracts.”
However, Turkey’s still actively opposing Cyprus’ sovereignty and has imposed their “sovereign right” to drill around the island.
“Turkey has a long-term plan of being an energy hub in the region and playing an important role in EU energy security,” Ubud Shokri, a Turkish senior foreign policy adviser, told Al Jazeera.
Aside from Turkey’s bold activities around the region, they are also opposing existing sanctions on buying gas from Russia. They’re using their NATO “immunity” to circumvent legalese secretly.
“Supplies of Russian oil to ports in Italy and Turkey rose to multi-week highs in the seven days to August 5, offsetting a drop in supplies to customers in Northern Europe. Supplies from Russia to the Mediterranean region as a whole were the highest since mid-June,” according to Bloomberg.
Even with the reports, the EU has yet to impose sanctions against Turkey and has only been “closely monitoring Russian-Turkish ties.”
“The identification of some of these shipments as non-Russian, even if they are of the Russian variety sent from a Russian port, shows how difficult it will be to control the sanctions when they take effect in December,” the report added.
Still, even with opposition from NATO partners like Greece (who are claiming Turkey’s gas exploration would overlap in their territories), Erdogan is firm in his stance, saying they are not seeking permission from anyone.
“Our exploration and drilling in the Mediterranean is within our own sovereign dominion. Neither the puppets nor the ones who hold their strings will be able to prevent us from getting our rights in the Mediterranean.”
“We don’t need to seek permission or ratification from anyone,” Erdogan added. “We will take what is ours.”