Israel, Cyprus work to settle offshore gas
Israel and Cyprus have reached an agreement on gas reserves straddling their maritime border, the Cypriot energy minister said on Tuesday, in a key step towards resolving a nine-year standoff over offshore spoil.
The development of Aphrodite’s gas field in Cypriot waters has been delayed as a small part of it extends into Israel’s maritime area and into another gas field. The Cypriot field was first discovered in 2011.
Cypriot Energy Minister Natasa Pilides said she and her Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz had agreed on a framework to address the issue and that guidelines would be passed on to companies involved in the project.
“The framework will be defined in a joint letter being prepared. We are both very pleased that we are now at this point after nine years of discussions,” Pilides told reporters under the name of Steinitz, who was at Cyprus to sign a memorandum of understanding. on another project, ready to leave the island.
Steinitz said there was a “fair chance” of a possible resolution.
“Nothing is certain, but there is a good chance that it will lead us to a solution of this small but important obstacle in the wonderful relations and cooperation between Cyprus and Israel on energy and on many other issues,” he said in comments made by the semi-official Cyprus news agency.
Cyprus signed in 2019 a 25-year concession with Noble Energy, Shell and Delek Drilling for the exploitation of the Aphrodite field.
Israel had maintained that an agreement was needed before work began because part of Aphrodite overlapped on the Israeli side.
Businesses on the Cypriot side would begin talks with those on the Israeli side to determine how Israeli businesses would be compensated, Steinitz’s office said in a statement. If the companies cannot come to an agreement within 180 days, it will be referred to an international expert who will try to resolve it for an additional 180 days.
If there was no deal by then, the matter would revert to the state level, the statement said.
The Aphrodite field contains approximately 4.1 trillion cubic feet of gas. The stake was around 10% of the deposit, a fraction of the gas already discovered in Israel.
Cyprus, Israel and Greece signed an agreement on Monday to create an underwater electric cable that will cross the Mediterranean and connect their electricity networks.
(Reporting by Michele Kambas and Ari Rabinovitch; editing by Jason Neely, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Susan Fenton)