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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Turkey in energy exploration talks with Libya: official

Libya's holds Africa's largest oil reserves [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 September, 2020

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Turkey is in talks with Libya's UN-backed government to explore potential oil and gas reserves both onshore and offshore in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey is discussing oil and natural gas exploration projects with the UN-recognised government in Libya, a top official said, as it squares off with Greece over Mediterranean drilling rights.

The talks with the Tripoli government come against the backdrop of rising tension over hydrocarbon resources and naval influence in the eastern Mediterranean that has sparked fears of conflict.

Ankara backs the government in Tripoli against a rival one in the energy-rich east of the war-torn country controlled by commander Khalifa Haftar.

"We are discussing with the Libyan government and relevant authorities, the National Oil Company, (both) fields onshore and offshore for oil and gas," a senior Turkish energy ministry official told reporters.

The official said Turkey was also looking into power generation projects "and also network development, potential pipeline operation and pipeline construction".

Libya holds Africa's largest oil reserves and has historic ties to Turkey stretching back to the Ottoman Empire.

Tripoli and Ankara struck an agreement last November that extended Turkey's claims to waters that run over a planned natural gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean fields with Greece.

Greece signed an exclusive economic zone deal with Egypt in August that stakes its own claims to some of those waters.

The emerging crisis has seen the two NATO members stage rival navy drills near an area where Turkey's Oruc Reis energy exploration vessel is conducting seismic studies off the coast of Greece's Kastellorizo island.

[Click to enlarge]

Turkey joined the search for offshore eastern Mediterranean riches in 2018, but has so far failed to discover any oil or gas.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did announce last month that Turkish has discovered a field in the Black Sea holding an estimated 320 billion cubic metres of gas.

But he said the find - which he hopes to convert into energy for the national power grid by the time Turkey celebrates its centennial in 2023 - would not slow the country's eastern Mediterranean push.

The energy ministry official said Turkey currently imports 92 percent of its crude oil and almost all of its natural gas.

The Black Sea find "is a sizable discovery, but we still need more gas", the ministry official said.

"Our demand will still be 70 percent imported," when the Black Sea gas goes fully online.

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