Greek PM says gas exploration to start off Crete in coming days
Exxon Mobil will start conducting seismic surveys in the southwest of Greece's Peloponnese peninsula and the island of Crete in the coming days, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday amid tensions between Greece and Turkey over offshore rights and as Europe seeks alternative energy sources due to the war in Ukraine.
“Our country ... must ascertain whether it currently has the ability to produce natural gas, which would contribute not only to our own energy security but also to that of Europe,” Mitsotakis said, while announcing the delayed gas prospecting project by the US energy giant.
ExxonMobil in July acquired the majority of hydrocarbon exploration rights in the region of west and southwest of Crete, following the departure of TotalEnergies.
Greece and Turkey are at loggerheads over offshore exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean, and Turkish prospecting east of Crete in 2020 prompted a military build-up and bellicose rhetoric.
Turkey last month renewed a deal with Libya allowing the country for oil and gas exploration in Libya's Mediterranean waters, three years after a maritime border deal that angered Greece and the EU.
The deal does not specify whether the surveys would take place in waters south of Greece, but still created anxiety in Athens as Greece's Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias accused Turkey of exploiting "the turbulent situation in Libya to further destabilize security in the Mediterranean region and establish a regional hegemony.”
Greece, Turkey and Cyprus will hold elections next year, throwing the risks of heightened nationalism into the tensions in the East Mediterranean over 2023.