Turkey will sign a contract with Shell next week for offshore oil and gas explorations, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency on Nov. 16 "We will sign a new contract for oil and gas search both in our soil and waters. We'll sit at the table with Shell next week," Yildiz said.
The minister however did not specify where the joint exploration would be carried out.
Turkey's move comes after the Cyprus government, which is not recognized by Ankara, struck a deal with U.S. energy firm Noble for gas exploration off the southern coast of the divided island of Cyprus.
In September, Turkey sent a ship, the Piri Reis, to the region after signing an accord with the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which only Ankara recogniszs, for gas exploration.
Turkey says the Cyprus government has no right to conduct offshore energy exploration while UN-backed talks on reunifying the island continue.
Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece.
The Greek Cyprus government, which says its hydrocarbon search is to the benefit of all Cypriots, has angered Turkey further by seeking to extend cooperation with Israel in the exploration and export of natural gas. In December 2010, Cyprus and Israel signed an agreement defining their maritime border that allows the neighbours to forge ahead in the search for energy sources in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey and Israel have been locked in a bitter dispute since May 2010 when Israeli naval commandos stormed a convoy of six ships trying to reach the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade, killing nine people.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011