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Turkey announces discovery of large natural gas reserve in Black Sea

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo, taken in Istanbul, Turkey, on August 23, 2019, shows the Turkish Oruc Reis seismic research vessel docked at port. (By AFP)

Turkey has announced the discovery of a large natural gas reserve off its Black Sea coast, which could ease the country’s dependence on energy imports.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the announcement on Friday. He had promised earlier this week to deliver “good news” that would herald “a new era” for Turkey.

Erdogan said the amount of the natural gas discovered was 320 billion cubic meters. He said it had been found by the country’s drilling ship Fatih.

“We have carried out nine deep-sea drillings in the Mediterranean and Black Sea through our Fatih and Yavuz ships so far. We have had the honor of giving our nation the good news that it has been waiting for,” he said. “There is no stopping and resting until we become a net exporter in energy.”

Erdogan expressed hope that the discovered gas would be made available for public use in 2023.

The Turkish drilling ship Fatih has been operating since late July in an exploration zone known as Tuna-1, about 100 nautical miles north of the Turkish coast in the western Black Sea.

If the gas reserves can be commercially extracted and confirmed as recoverable, they will help the country cut its dependence on energy imports, which last year totaled 41 billion dollars.

The discovery comes as Turkey is involved in a dispute over oil and gas exploration rights with Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. It has sailed seismic research vessels and escorting warships in waters disputed there. Greece has dispatched its own military vessels to the area.

Erdogan has vowed to continue the country’s energy exploration in the disputed waters despite warnings from the European Union (EU) and a military buildup by France.

Turkey had paused the research activities on a request from Germany but restarted them after a maritime agreement was signed between Greece and Egypt. Ankara described that agreement as “worthless” and an attempt to keep Turkey out of the region.

Earlier this month, Turkey also launched naval exercises off two Greek islands.

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