ENERGY: Cyprus and Lebanon seek deal on hydrocarbon reserves straddling their EEZ

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Cyprus and Lebanon agreed to commence negotiations for an agreement on development of hydrocarbon reserves extending beyond their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides and Minster of Energy George Lakkortypis met on Thursday, in Beirut, Lebanon’s Foreign and Energy Ministers, Gebran Bassil and Nada Boustani, respectively. They discussed issues on cooperation between Cyprus and Lebanon in the energy and energy security sectors in the broader region of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Christodoulides said the Ministers reviewed bilateral relations and ways to broaden and deepen them further, for the benefit of both countries. He added that both countries had a thorough, results-oriented discussion on energy matters.

“The results of hydrocarbon exploration, both in Cyprus, as well as in Lebanon, leave us particularly satisfied,” Christodoulides said and referred to the interest large international companies display in investing in the EEZ of both countries.

Cyprus and Lebanon reaffirmed their mutual support for both countries exercising their sovereign rights to explore and exploit their natural resources, located in their respective maritime areas, in line with international law and in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which both countries are signatories.

“Cyprus respects and supports the sovereign rights and the jurisdiction of all countries in the region, including Lebanon, within their maritime zones, on the basis of international law,” Christodoulides said.

Ministers agreed on the need to utilize the impetus following energy developments in the region and use it as a catalyst to enhance bilateral cooperation further.

“We agreed to immediately commence talks to conclude a bilateral Framework Agreement regarding the development of hydrocarbon reserves that extend beyond the median line between the EEZ of both countries,” said Christodoulides.

He said such an agreement would send a strong message for cooperation between the two countries, providing international companies, wishing to invest in the exploration of hydrocarbons in the area, with the necessary legal security.

He also noted that the two sides agreed to start discussions to conclude an agreement for the protection of underwater cultural heritage from illegal excavations, within the respective areas of jurisdiction of both countries. Cyprus also looks forward to signing a bilateral agreement with Lebanon on search and rescue activities.

The Foreign Minister congratulated Lebanon for the generous hospitality of 1.5 mln refugees from Syria and announced the donation of €50,000 on behalf of the Republic of Cyprus, in order to strengthen programs that aim at improving access to education for young disadvantaged Lebanese girls.

The Foreign Minister also assured that Cyprus, which has also been affected by turbulence in the broader region, will continue to support Lebanon in addressing the challenges that add a disproportionate weight on the country, both at a bilateral level as well as through EU channels.