The discovery of significant gas reserves off Israel in 2009-10 sparked suggestions the Eastern Mediterranean could be the next big natural gas hub. For a region closely associated with seemingly intractable conflicts and territorial disputes, the energy conversation never strayed far from the underlying geopolitics. With development creeping forward offshore Cyprus, and majors signing up to drill off Lebanon, the primacy of politics is again rearing its ugly head.

Just days after striking significant volumes of gas on Cyprus’ offshore Block 6 (MEES, 16 February), the Eni-commissioned Saipem 12000 drill ship was blocked by Turkish warships as it sailed east to drill the Cuttlefish prospect on Block 3 (see map). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Cypriot exploration in supposedly contested waters as “unserious and childish,” while also citing supposed naval exercises in the area. The Saipem 12000 is currently cooling its heels 50km off the Cyprus party hotspot of Agia Napa, with its Q1 drilling plan now in disarray. Claudio Descalzi, CEO of block operator Eni (80%; Korean state firm Kogas has 20%) called the standoff “a matter between countries.” (CONTINUED - 1572 WORDS)