Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız has said Turkey can facilitate the transportation of natural gas Greek Cyprus and Israel are currently working to extract in the eastern Mediterranean to northwestern markets only if and when Israel agrees to Turkey's demands regarding the killing of eight of its citizens together with a US citizen of Turkish origin onboard an aid ship two years ago.
“All the feasibility studies conducted are now pointing to Turkey [as the most suitable transportation route]. If we did not have the Mavi Marmara issue with Israel, there could have been many joint projects between us -- and the transportation of natural gas [from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe] would be at the top of the list of those projects. And that would have been only right to do. Yet that natural gas pipeline is not worthy of nine lives we lost,” he said on Sunday, speaking to reporters in the southern province of Antalya.
Faced with resistance when trying to intercept it, Israeli naval commandos killed eight Turks as well as 19-year old Furkan Doğan, a US citizen of Turkish ethnicity, onboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara aid ship in international waters on May 31, 2010. The Turkish government and people have been infuriated with the operation and its deadly result, but Israel refused to apologize for it, perceiving it as an insult to its national pride. It also did not agree to pay compensation to the families of the victims. Turkey has accordingly imposed sanctions on Israel, expelling the Israeli ambassador and suspending military agreements with the Middle Eastern country.
“There is only one way to transport this natural gas. The seabed of the Mediterranean is not ideal for a pipeline. Turkey, on the other hand, has a pipeline infrastructure. Why should it not be used for that purpose? Should we receive an offer, we can speak of such a partnership only when the political foundation is strengthened for it. Energy cannot carry the burden of politics,” Yıldız said.
Teaming up with the Greek Cypriots and Israelis, the American Noble Energy company is leading natural gas exploration efforts in the eastern Mediterranean. It estimates that there are more than 25 trillion cubic meters in Israeli waters and up to 230 billion cubic meters in Cypriot waters to the west. Ankara, however, adamantly opposes any Greek Cypriot oil and gas search that denies Turkish Cypriots, who have a separate government in the north of the island that is recognized only by Turkey, what it contends is a rightful claim to any revenue made from the sale of the gas. It also dismisses a Greek Cypriot-Israeli deal demarcating their maritime borders as null and void. In response, it recently signed an agreement with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) to explore for oil and natural gas in the region.
Cyprus was split into an internationally recognized Greek-speaking south and a Turkish-speaking north in 1974 after Turkey militarily intervened to protect the lives of Turks on the island following a coup attempt by supporters of union with Greece.