Lebanon eyes Cyprus energy cooperation

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Lebanon stands ready for energy cooperation with neighbouring Cyprus once Beirut discovers natural gas, Lebanese Foreign Minister Αbdallah Βou Habib said Friday.

The minister was in Nicosia for talks with Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides on the situation in Lebanon and the challenges they face.

“Once we find gas, we are ready to cooperate together, we have talked about it, and I can assure you that Lebanon is ready to do it,” Bou Habib told reporters.

Lebanon is one of four countries, including Egypt, in the region with which Cyprus has an agreement on the delimitation of their respective maritime borders or Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).

But Lebanon’s parliament has not ratified the 2007 agreement with Cyprus because of a long-running dispute between Lebanon and Israel over the boundaries of their EEZs in an 800-square-kilometre area.

Bou Habib said the US had made an official proposal to try and resolve the standoff.

“Sometimes it takes more time than necessary…we received a written proposal in January, we are in the process of answering to them,” said the Lebanese minister.

He said the US proposal was better than the ones tabled before.

“We are all in agreement of what we want, and therefore the response to the Americans hopefully will be soon, and it would be one response.”

Last year Cyprus and Lebanon signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the energy sector.

Cyprus’ internationally recognised government has long been at loggerheads with Turkey, which has conducted drilling for oil and gas in designated Cypriot waters.

The island was split after a 1974 Turkish invasion sparked by a coup engineered by the military then ruling Greece.

A breakaway Turkish Cypriot state north of the island is recognised only by Ankara, while Turkey does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus.

NATO allies Turkey and Greece are at odds over the delimitation of their continental shelves.

The eastern Mediterranean has become an energy hot spot, with significant natural gas finds for Cyprus, Israel and Egypt. However, Cyprus has yet to extract its untapped reserves of natural gas.

Turkey has challenged all maritime delimitations Cyprus has signed with its neighbours, claiming almost half of the Cypriot EEZ.

Ankara was accused of “gunboat diplomacy” in February 2018 when the Turkish navy prevented a ship leased by Italy’s ENI from reaching its drilling target in Cyprus’ Block 3.