ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey will start exploring for gas in the eastern Mediterranean this year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Thursday, after signing a maritime deal with Libya.
“We will start search and drilling activities as soon as possible in 2020 after issuing licenses for the areas,” Erdogan said during a two-hour speech in the capital.
He added that Turkey’s seismic exploration vessel Oruc Reis would soon be deployed.
Ankara angered neighboring countries in the Mediterranean with an agreement signed with the Tripoli government in November, which claimed extensive areas of the sea for Turkey.
Greece says the deal fails to take into account the island of Crete, while Turkey has already upset Cyprus by sending ships to search for oil and gas off the divided island.
Erdogan said it was “no longer legally possible” for any search and drilling activities or a pipeline without Libya or Turkey’s approval.
Earlier this month, Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed a deal to construct an EastMed pipeline to ship gas to Europe, despite Turkey’s vehement opposition.
Turkey and Libya also signed a security deal in November which was followed by the deployment of Turkish forces in the north African country.
While Turkey supports the UN-recognized government of Premier Fayez al-Sarraj, countries like Egypt and the United Arab Emirates back Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar in his assault against Tripoli.