By Angelos Anastasiou
ISRAELI Energy minister Yuval Steinitz will visit Cyprus as soon as possible, it was agreed with his Cypriot counterpart Giorgos Lakkotrypis in a telephone conversation.
Asked to comment on a story featuring on Israeli business portal ‘Globes’ on Thursday, according to which the Aphrodite gas find in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) extends into Israeli waters, Lakkotrypis said that on the issue of joint development of common gas finds with Israel “there exists an agreed procedure which is being adhered to”.
“The next step in this procedure is technical-level meetings in November,” he said, adding that “there is good will on both sides”.
With regard to the Globes story, which claimed that the Israeli Energy minister will not visit Cyprus until the joint-development agreement has been finalised, Lakkotrypis said he had a telephone conversation with Steinitz on Thursday.
“There is no truth to the report claiming that he will not come until the agreement is completed,” he said.
“We agreed [on Thursday] that we have to set a date for his visit as soon as possible.”
On the issue of Total’s desire to extend its contract on Cyprus’ plot 11 – adjacent to the ‘Zhor’ field, where Egypt discovered a sizeable gas reserve – he said that the first three-year period of the contract expires in February 2016.
“The company has informed us of its intention to renew the contract for the next two years, as it has the option to,” Lakkotrypis said.
“They will have to confirm this in writing, per the procedure described in the contracts, in the coming weeks.”
The energy minister added that the extension comes with “additional obligations, laid out in the original contract, which include drilling”.
With regard to the government’s comments on the Aphrodite reserve’s development plans, Lakkotrypis said they have been given to Noble, and “dialogue has begun on how to bridge certain differences that have come up, and how to optimise the development plan”.
Asked to comment on reports of interest for Cypriot natural gas by British Gas, which manages one of Egypt’s terminals, the Energy minister said that “there is intense interest to buy natural gas from the Aphrodite reserve”.
Such interest was established during his contacts in Egypt last Tuesday, he noted.
“Commercial negotiations between companies continue as normal,” he said.