Cyprus, Israel try to resolve gas dispute

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Stalled Cyprus-Israel talks seem to be on the right track in a rights dispute over the Aphrodite gas field, Cypriot Energy Minister Natasa Pilides said, after her first video chat with Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz.

In statements to CNA Pilides said the issue has progressed and next week there will be a discussion between senior officials of the two ministries.

She said a special arrangement is being discussed that exclusively concerns Aphrodite field and not the whole of block 12.

Aphrodite was the first Cyprus offshore gas field to be discovered.

Pilides said after submission of detailed proposals and the relevant agreements with the energy companies, Israel has started to examine the issue and expressed interest in resolving it soon.

Israel demands a share of the production of Aphrodite, as a minor portion of the reservoir stretches into its Yishai field.

Despite negotiations in the last few years, the two countries have reached a stalemate on sharing the resources.

Last year, Israel advised three energy companies not to start work on the Aphrodite gas field until an agreement is reached over ownership of the reserves in a border dispute with Israel`s Yishai.

Nicosia has previously said that the development of Aphrodite and the established process for the special agreement are not connected.

Last November, Cyprus signed a 25-year concession with Noble Energy, Shell, and Delek Drilling for the exploitation of Aphrodite and a revised production sharing agreement.

Shell, Noble Energy and Delek are committed to begin gas production from 2025 from the field first discovered in 2011.

This timeline has been into doubt due to the coronavirus crisis and the recent takeover of Noble by American giant Chevron.

Israel’s long-standing position is that an agreement is needed to “facilitate the fair exploitation and development of the field”.

The Aphrodite field holds an estimated 4.1 trillion cubic feet of gas.

At stake is about 10% of the deposit, which is a fraction of the gas already discovered in Israel.

EuroAsia project

In case of developments, Pilides did not rule out a meeting in Israel on the issue in September, during which the two countries will also discuss the EuroAsia Interconnector project.

The EuroAsia cable project will connect the national electricity grids of Israel, Cyprus, and Greece.

It will end the energy isolation of Cyprus and promote the substantial development of Renewable Energy Sources (RES).

Pilides said Israel has shown particular interest in moving the project forward, following the ambitious goals it has set in the field of Renewable Energy Sources (RES).

She said Cyprus has granted all the relevant permissions for the project to proceed.

Turning the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) into an international organisation were also discussed with Steinitz.

The Forum consists of Egypt, Cyprus, Israel, Greece, Italy, Jordan, and Palestine.

Cyprus has proposed that new countries can join after having been approved by the founding members.