By Stefanos Evripidou
A DELEGATION from the Israeli Defence Ministry arrived in Cyprus yesterday to hold talks with their Cypriot counterparts on energy security in the region, Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou said.
Speaking to state broadcaster CyBC, Fotiou said that both countries give huge importance to the issue of energy security.
“After the visit of the (Cypriot) President and my meeting with the Israeli defence minister in Tel Aviv, the foundations have been placed to begin this strategic dialogue on all issues, including the two countries’ efforts to exploit natural gas and energy security.
“There are consultations between the two ministries. These days, a delegation from the Israeli defence ministry will be in Cyprus, to enter into dialogue on what we call energy security, which has to exist, because you cannot have on the table investments worth millions of euros and not have energy security,” Fotiou said.
The minister confirmed reports the government was considering purchasing two offshore patrol vessels to better monitor Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The two vessels were included in the ministry’s original budget while the planning stage for their purchase began with the previous government, he said.
Fotiou maintained that the state’s near empty coffers had the means to purchase the vessels.
US firm Noble Energy is to begin appraisal drilling at the Aphrodite offshore prospect in block 12 of Cyprus’ EEZ in around two weeks. A budget of US117m (€90m) has been approved for the drilling operations.
Should Noble confirm the size and quality of the gas in the Aphrodite prospect, this automatically increases Cyprus’ prospects of becoming a player in the energy game, providing a dose of commerciality to efforts to raise funds to build a one-train liquefaction (LNG) plant at Vassilikos.
Cyprus is still in the early stages of developing its gas industry, with many developments dependent on unknown variables. One area to keep a close eye on is the geopolitics in the region and how they develop.
The Turkish government has recently toned down its more aggressive rhetoric against Cyprus, instead talking about collaboration with the Cyprus Republic and Israel to transport natural gas to Europe via Turkey.
However, it is as yet unclear whether Cyprus has enough gas to consider both options, an LNG plant and a pipeline to Turkey, assuming of course it overcomes the political obstacles related to the unsolved, continuing division of the island.